Rob Foulds, has received a response from Richard Waller, I reproduce it below:
“On 27 September 2011 12:26, Waller, Richard <Richard.Waller@rotherham.gov.uk> wrote:
Dear Mr Foulds
I am writing in reply to your e-mail dated 15 September in which you state that you wish to make a formal complaint about the Council’s failure to make information about Standard Committee review panels freely and clearly available to the public. You suggest that the Council has hidden this information from the public. The reason is rather more mundane.
Save for written summaries, documentation in connection with meetings of the Standard Committee’s assessment and review panels is not available to the public by virtue of regulation 8 (application of the Local Government Act 1972) of the Standards Committee (England) Regulations 2008. Regulation 8 (5) (a) of the 2008 Regulations disapplies Part VA (access to meetings and documents of certain authorities, committees and sub-committees) of the Local Government Act 1972 in relation to access to meetings and documents of the Standards Committee’s assessment and review panels. Statutory guidance published by Standards for England explains why: “Such meetings may have to consider unfounded and potentially damaging complaints about members, which it would not be appropriate to make public”.
However, in accordance with regulation 8 (5) (b) & (c) of the 2008 Regulations, a written summary of the hearing is published and can be found in the Standards Committee pages of the Council’s website in the Council and Democracy section under Standards Committee. If you had clicked on that page you would have been able to access written summaries of assessment and review panel meetings (see the bottom of that page: Code of conduct complaints process – written summaries).
I agree however that the relevant page of the Agenda, Reports, Minutes pages of the Council and Democracy section of the website should be cross-referenced to the Standards Committee page and shall arrange for this to be done. I apologise for any inconvenience caused.
If you are not satisfied with this internal review, you can appeal to the Information Commissioner. Contact details are: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire. SK9 5AF. Telephone 01625 545700. Alternatively go to www.ico.gov.org.
Clearly not content with this as an adequate response to his enquiry and replied in the following terms:
“Dear Mr Waller
The second-last paragraph of your response therefore agrees that my formal complaint is justified and you confirm that you will arrange to rectify the failings of Rotherham Council.
The analogy is simple: if I call in at Rotherham Library and seek a copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, I think it would be reasonable to find it in the classic fiction section thereof. And I would certainly not expect a librarian to ultimately advise me that it was “publicly available” in the geography section, under Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, and thereafter provide me with an abstract explanation of why it was so filed.
In spite of your protestation of mundanity and voluminous quotes from various legislation, the real truth is that the records to which I refer, used to be filed under Agenda, Reports, Minutes and someone at Rotherham Council deliberately removed the records from that logical location and only after receiving a formal complaint, as usual, does your Authority decide to apply appropriate ‘standards’ of administration. By the way, there is still a major lack of information pertaining to the Standards Committee on the Agenda, Reports, Minutes web page.
Finally, it is notable that you have treated my formal complaint as an “internal review” of my original Freedom of Information request – again, the well-worn standard RMBC tactic of manipulation is employed. Surely to God, you must have realised by now that there are some members of the public who can see straight through your Authority’s manoeuvrings.
Further developments on this FOI and others, visit The FOI Register.
Information kindly supplied by Rob Foulds, to whom we are grateful! Readers might like to have first go at highlighting the lessons this email exchange illuminates!