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  • A tale of two public authorities

    Posted on August 21st, 2009 admin No comments


    Happy days for the residents of Southampton

    No relevance to story other than it links to Southampton

    University of Southampton:

     They say that knowledge is power and in that statement is the root of the friction which Freedom of Information officers often feel from senior executives within the organisations where they work. Public authorities, and most particularly Government Departments, now have to work under a new mindset whereby they do not have power to determine to disclose or release their information.

    And once information is disclosed to one applicant under FoI it can be disclosed to the whole world, stuck on lamp-posts and projected up against the side of the Town Hall.

    Yet some authorities find it difficult to let go and make desperate attempts to convince the applicant that should they do anything with the data the sky will fall in on them.

    One new example of this is the incredible lengths that Southampton University are going to in telling an applicant what he can and can’t do with the information supplied to him under the FoI Act.

    It would appear from the University’s replies that have been posted on WhatDoTheyKnow that previously responses were sent out password protected.

    Now, however, they have altered their position slightly so that applicants have to tick saying they are the applicant and they agree by the copyright statement, which couldn’t be printed in bigger font.

    Have a go yourself here.

    University of Southampton’s FoI response

    As you will see they have also taken the bizarre decision to watermark the response with the e-mail address of the applicant. Why? What possible purpose can that serve?

    Anyhow I am asking the University of Southampton what legal discussions and advice it has had in developing its format for releasing information. [link] .

    And just in case Southampton want to attempt to sue me under copyright law the information in the applicant’s response was that it charged its poor students £64,762 for taking re-sits in 2007/08 and £125,665 for the same thing in the 2008/09 financial year.


    Robin in Da Hood should've asked for costs as well.

    Robin in Da Hood should've asked for costs as well.

    Nottingham City Council, which does not have a glorious history in the few short years since the Freedom of Information Act came into force, has now revealed it paid an applicant £8,000 in compensation after making a hash of his request.

    When the Information Tribunal ruled against the Council in a decision relating to information about a school the panel made some withering comments about the City Council’s approach to information disclosure.

    So unhappy was it with the way the council had approached the matter that it said costs should be awarded to the applicant.

    Following my Freedom of Information request to the Council [link] we can now see the council’s response in which they admit the full cost of this compensation to Dr Bowrick was £8,000.

    Nottingham City Council’s FoI response

    The Tribunal’s comments following the hearing included: “Quite frankly the Tribunal is dismayed at the way the Request has been handled and the conduct of the Council since the commencement of this appeal. The Council appears to have misled Dr Bowbrick and then the Information Commissioner during his investigation.”

    After the case was settled the Information Commissioner conducted an investigation at Nottingham City Council and issued a Practice Recommendation against the authority.


    It would appear there is still some work to do at Nottingham as the answer to my question was late and as far as I can see failed to answer the second part of how the costs were broken down.

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