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Monday, 19 August 2013

Freedom of Information

There are a couple of FoI requests relating to Avoncliff still extant that The Environment Agency has chosen not to answer.

These are non trivial items.

The first is from Allan Richards:
He has named a number of Environment Agency officials and asked that details of their activities relating to Environment Agency actions at Avoncliff be provided. The EA have stopped responding.

The second is from D. Weston:
How much has the licence process at Avoncliff cost? The EA have simply refused to respond.

The first one is pretty serious stuff - the second is not unreasonable under the circumstances.

So, c'mon EA folk - get your act in gear. These questions are not going to disappear!

In fact, it seems likely your old friends the Information Commissioner's Office is likely to come calling in the not too distant future.

That £36,000 FoI bill cooked up by our friend from North Korea is beginning to look a bit wobbly... hope you've got the recipe right pal ...


  1. err... wow - looks like they are either completely incompetent - or think they are above the law.

    My guess is the second one...

  2. The way around it is to ask the exact same question a second time, if no answer within the time limit of 20 days you then request a review of their answer (lack of answer), give them a further 20 days and then appeal to the Information Commissioners Office ICO. If you don't ask twice and don't ask them to review their decision they have not had the opportunity to follow the process and therefore the ICO cannot take the case.
    A recent appeal was sent to ICO because it was obviuos that the EA would not change their decision but the ICO could/would not handle it until the EA had been asked to review their decision and had the opportunity to respond.
    You have to play the game however wasteful of time it is.

  3. Anon:

    we are now reasonably well versed in the to-ings and fro-ings of the EA - and we will be following up on the placers of these FoI requests. That does not exclude reframing the questions and other folk asking them.

    What is almost more telling than any answer are the simple facts that - the EA have in one case not responded at all - and in the second case stopped responding when it became obvious that they were further exposing actions of their officials to scrutiny - where it's clear embarrassment would ensue.

    1. Have read the requests on WHAT DO THEY KNOW .COM very serious allegations against four officers. But a very clear request regarding officers JEREMY GRAYDON JOHN ALDRICK JOHN ADAMS PENNY SOWTER what are the allegations. Have any other officers been implicated..

  4. One reason FoIs are difficult to track down in the EA is in the process that they are dealt with. It goes to the FoI department (PR), who filter it down to management to staff on the ground level (experts, officers, etc) with a time limit of when it should be replied to. Unfortunately, this only comes in the form of a phone call saying, "can you send x, y and z to this enquirer by a". The person taking the call might write it on a piece of paper and they move on to doing what they were doing. Sometimes its picked up sometime later (hours, days, weeks, months) and then the information is sent out. One thing that should be absolutely clear about the EA is the shoddy procedures and lack of oversight. It's endemic.

  5. Thanks for that Henry - makes sense.

    From what we've seen the fielders of FoI requests seem to be geographically scattered all over the place (much like the Water Abstraction licence determining officers - in our case two schemes 75m apart were dealt with by officials nearly 200 miles apart)...

    Given the wide availability of free and effective online calendaring tools the PR department should be able to track FoI in an easy manner - it doesn't appear to be the case when one looks at whatdotheyknow.com ;-/

    The PR department aren't exactly a dependable resource for information even regarding their own activity - let alone the activities of their colleagues

  6. Another problem we have in the EA is the easy ability for officers and staff to destroy/delete information without any tracking in place. This is done when mistakes are made. If its hard copy, nobody knows about it. If its electronic, our outsourced IT providers don't get involved unless its authorised by senior management (no outside ability to initiate inspections on data deletion) - its basically the police policing themselves in the EA. So, even if the PR department wanted to retrieve the information, there is always this issue of whether it was destroyed or not by individuals and no senior manager will approve timely and costly data retrieval from our IT providers.

  7. Well i would go for the individuals the system is in place, win or lose it will not cost you. I have done it works a treat,PRIVATE PROSECUTION.


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