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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.

  • Police ordered to pay £1,000 to FoI applicant

    Posted on July 15th, 2009 admin No comments
    The Sweeney. The rules of the game have changed a bit since their day.

    The Sweeney. The rules of the game have changed a bit since their day.

    Northumbria Police Force has been ordered to pay £1,000 in costs to a man whose Freedom of Information request ended up at the Information Tribunal.

    The Tribunal ruled that Northumbria Police could have prepared for the case better which would have assisted the smooth running of the Tribunal.

    The applicant, Dr Peter Kelway, was partially successful in his appeal to the Tribunal on the Freedom of Information matter and then lodged an order for costs claiming £26,000. He made the claim against both the Information Commissioner and Northumbria Police.

    Under Rule 29(1) of the Information Tribunal Rules 2005 costs can be awarded if against the appellant or Commissioner if it is felt the appeal or disputed decision was manifestly unreasonable, or where the Tribunal considers a party has been responsible for frivolous, vexatious, improper action, or a failure to comply with a direction or any delay which with diligence could have been avoided.

    In its summary the Tribunal said it was loath to award costs in normal circumstances stating: The Tribunal’s power to award costs under rule 29 is discretionary. The Information Tribunal rarely awards costs. This is not only because of the limited powers under rule 29 but because of the overriding objective of tribunals to provide low cost, prompt and informal justice and that costs should not be seen as a deterrent to parties using tribunals.”

    But in this case it decided that some costs should be awarded saying: “The Tribunal has considered all the evidence and submissions by the parties and finds the delays in compliance with some directions could have been avoided by the Police with due diligence, but that ultimately this did not prejudice the proceedings. However it did cause Dr Kelway to expend additional time on the preparation of his case. We also find that to some extent Dr Kelway contributed to the delays because of the way he dealt with matters but we take into account that he is a litigant in person. What we find surprising is that the Police who are used to court proceedings and are represented by senior counsel in this case did not cope better with Dr Kelway and there was no real excuse in this case for not promptly complying with directions and co-operating more fully with all the parties.”

    The Information Commissioner did not have to pay any costs.

    It would appear (and I’m happy to be corrected) that the only other case in which costs were awarded following an Information Tribunal were in the case of Bowbrick v Information Commissioner and Nottingham City Council [link] in which the Tribunal were critical of the way the council dealt with the request and ordered it to pay all the costs incurred by the applicant. The total figure hasn’t been disclosed as far as I can see so I am asking Nottingham City Council [link] on WhatDoTheyKnow.  

    Details of this costs hearings can be found [here] and the original Information Tribunal is [here] .