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  • Chippy tenant’s FoI quest to reveal bathtub damage

    Posted on September 9th, 2009 admin No comments
    Nothing like a hot, relaxing, bath.

    Nothing like a hot, relaxing, bath.

    Sometimes Freedom of Information seems to be the only or last avenue left to people who are unhappy with a service provided to them by a public authority.

    This phenomenon appears to manifest itself in a recent decision notice from Brighton and Hove City Council in relation to the quality of a tenant’s bath and wash basin.

    Clearly the tenant was less than happy when he arrived at his refurbished council home in July 2007 to find that the new bath had an enamel chip missing.

    If at that point the builders had fixed it to the satisfaction of the tenant it would have saved a blizzard of paperwork and a complaint file that eventually landed on the Information Commissioner’s desk.

    The tenant wanted to know where his bath had been purchased from, who the contractors were who fitted it and when and where the damage had been caused to the tub.

    Council staff manage to unearth an inspection report at the property which said:: ‘it was noted that there was a small chip in the enamelling to the internal bowl of the bath. It was agreed that the contractor would carry out a liquid enamel repair to the chip.’

    But there was no information held by the Council of how the chip had been caused and when and where it had happened. The Council gave the applicant the details of its contractor and said the company might hold more details.

    From a legal point of view, this aspect is interesting, in that the Council appears to have tried to bat off the request by just pointing him in the direction of the contractor.

    However, the information on the man’s bath is held by the contractor ‘on behalf’ of the Council and so is therefore the responsibility of the authority to unearth.

    The Commissioner said in the decision notice: “When the Council completed its internal review, the Council stated that it did not hold copies of the information requested, however the contractor “may have further information”. This is an inadequate response for the purposes of the FOIA as it was not clear whether the information was held by the contractor on behalf of the Council. In view of this, the Council breached section 1(1)(a) for not stating whether it held this information.”

    As it turned out the contractor had very limited information on the provenance of the bathtub and said it was impossible to marry up invoices for baths with the properties that they may have been installed in.

    So the mystery of who chipped the enamel off the seasider’s bath will remain unsolved as even the powers of Freedom of Information cannot unmask the culprit.

    The full decision notice is [here] .