Wednesday, 25 July 2012

#QuackCWaC Council breaching the 20 day FOI deadline

One only has to peruse the Freedom of Information requests to Cheshire West and Chester Council on the What Do They Know website to realise that they are particularly bad when it comes to providing a Freedom of Information Act compliant response within the statutory 20 working day deadline.

Here is an interesting Freedom of Information request submitted to them on 16th July 2009 by a Mr Thomas

Since the inception of Cheshire West and Chester Council

1) how many requests for information under the freedom of information act has the council received?

2) how many times has the council failed to respond within the statutory 20 day period?

Here is #QuackCWaC Council's response sent on the 13 August 2009 [my comments in blue]

Thank you for you recent request for information on FOI requests received.

Before providing the figures I would like to provide some background on the new authority and present some additional information which will give a better picture for the figures describe below.

As you may be aware on 1st April 2009 the seven council authorities in the Cheshire area were abolished and two new unitary authorities came into being; Cheshire West and Chester is the amalgamation of Chester City Council, Ellesmere Port and Neston Borough Council and Vale Royal Borough Council, Cheshire East is the amalgamation of Crewe & Nantwich Borough Council, Congleton Borough Council and Macclesfield Borough Council.

The above information is totally unnecessary because the requester clearly stated 'Since the inception of Cheshire West and Chester Council'

In light of this there have been substantial staffing and process changes with ongoing centralisation of tasks. This has resulted in a small period of time where responses were not always responded to within a timely fashion.

Essentially a bullshit excuse for breaking the law by not providing a Freedom of Information Act compliant response with the statutory 20 working day deadline.

The organisation has now put in place an appropriate process to make sure all requests are captured, recorded, assigned and dealt with under the terms of Freedom of Information legislation. In addition the new organisation recognises the importance of making sure requests are dealt with within relevant timescales.

The figures for Cheshire West and Chester can be broken down as follows :

2nd April to 17th June 88 requests received, 55 not answered within 20 days (69%)

17th June to 12th August 108 requests received 15 not answered within 20 days (14%)

They state in 2009 that they put in place an 'appropriate process to make sure all requests are captured, recorded, assigned and dealt with under the terms of Freedom of Information legislation.'

However, that can't be true because they are still breaking the law by failing to provide a Freedom of Information Act compliant response within 20 working days. Which means in 2009 they either lied to the requester when providing an FOI response or the appropriate process has been failing for the last 3 years and senior management have failed demonstrably to do anything about it.


Here are a few recent examples to prove my point, there are many more.


Staff/Employee clarification    Payments by cheque    Members' Allowances: Tax deducted at source

Read their 2009 response again 'a small period of time where responses were not always responded to within a timely fashion'

That small period of time has now turned into - 3 years - #quackfail


For more information please download #QuackCWaC FOI response times here. They look a lot worse than the 14% quoted in 2009, more like 48% to me.


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