At a recent awards event, recognising high-performing Freedom of Information officers and teams (fantastic idea by the organisers/sponsors, by the way*) I gave a brief talk where I stressed that it was important to recognise how much FOI has achieved in its 23 (or 18**) years, and to remember that every day thousands of disclosures are made by thousands of public authorities. It’s very easy to snipe at bad practice, and I often do, but if we don’t acknowledge the benefits, the real opponents of FOI might start arguing for its repeal.
So. Celebrate success. Accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative.
Then you see a decision notice from the Information Commissioner (ICO), in which a large London council had refused to disclose, under FOI, information on how many enquiries (MEQs) each of its councillors*** had submitted to the council on behalf of constituents. The reason for refusal was that this was the personal data of the councillors (well, yes) and that disclosure would infringe those councillors’ rights under the data protection law (hell, no).
This isn’t time for legal analysis. It really is as extraordinary as it sounds.
Thankfully, the ICO had no truck with it (and the notice does have legal analysis).
Frankly, though, the council should be ashamed.
*I have no personal or professional interest
**The Act commenced in 2000, but the main provisions didn’t commence until 2005
***At the end of the notice there is a big hint as to the role of the person who made the request – see if you can guess
The views in this post (and indeed most posts on this blog) are my personal ones, and do not represent the views of any organisation I am involved with.