The second decision of the Scottish Information Commissioner ("SIC") under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 was made public on 28 June 2005. This decision concerned an application for information from Edinburgh City Council (the "Council") regarding student discounts on Council Tax. Although the information was eventually provided to the requester the SIC found that the Council had failed to comply with the Act for the following reasons:
- The Council had wrongly advised that the request for information was not a valid request under the Act. The request was in writing (the requester had used the Council's online freedom of information request form); stated the name and address of the requester; and described the desired information. All of these factors meant that the request was valid.
- The Council had told the requester to contact a particular department for the information (whilst still maintaining that it was not a valid request under the Act). This was not an appropriate response as a member of the public is not required to go to a specific department to request information from a public authority. A request can be made to any employee of a public body and it is then a matter for the public body to process his internally as appropriate.
- The Council did not issue an appropriate refusal notice as it did not state which exemption was being claimed when it refused to supply the information, and did not advise of a right of review. This was also contrary to the Act.
- The Council failed to exercise its general duty to advise and assist the requester.
Once the SIC had commenced investigation proceedings, the Council did not provide information within the timeframes specified by the SIC.
The Council has been advised that it must, through staff training and revisions to its processes, remedy these failings to avoid any repetition. Such action must be taken within a period of three months form the date of the decision. This decision demonstrates that FOI procedures will only be effective if staff have the requisite degree of knowledge on FOI, and are able to take appropriate action.
The SIC's decisions are available at Scottish Information Commissioner | Webpage.