FOI Chris Longley – Day 30 Refusal Finally Arrives!

Day 30 of my FOI Request to RMBC and the refusal has arrived. Here is the full text:

RMBC letter reads thus:

“Dear Mr Longley,

I refer to your recent request for information regarding all the agendas, minutes and reports of all Meetings of the Rotherham Children’s Safeguarding Board from May 1 2005 to May 31 2010, any reports about major interventions by Rotherham MBC in the matter of child safeguarding and reviews by Rotherham MBC of safeguarding children in Rotherham that fall within or refer to the period May 1 2005 to May 31 2010 and the preceding five years.

From 2009 to date, minutes and reports are available on the Safeguarding Board website on the link below:

http://www.rotherham.gov.uk/safeguarding/

Where information is not available on the website, the information has been archived and it has been estimated that retrieval of all the information requested would exceed the cost limit as detailed in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004. It would take in excess of 18 hours to retrieve the information as there are numerous reports for each meeting or review.

If you are not satisfied with this response you have the right to an internal review by the Council. Please contact us via the above email address or by post to Sarah Corbett, Information Governance Manager, Legal Services, Riverside House, Main Street, Rotherham, S60 1AE.

If you are not satisfied with the 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 http://www.ico.gov.uk/

Yours sincerely,

Sarah Corbett
Information Governance Manager
Information Governance Unit
Legal Services
Resources Directorate
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council”

RMBC letter ends

My reply to RMBC reads as follows:

“Sarah Corbett
Information Governance Manager
Information Governance Unit
Legal Services
Resources Directorate
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mrs/Ms Corbett

Thank you for your reply thirty days after I first contacted the Council.

I am disappointed that it took you thirty days to discover the circumstances that you set out in your letter to me.

Your reply is wholly unacceptable to me, but I am sure that will not be a surprise.

I am unsure of what “an internal review by the Council” would entail, but the words seem very much like “you will be marking your own homework” to me and that is not an acceptable position either.

So I therefore repeat my request for, now, the immediate release to me of all the agendas minutes and reports about major interventions by Rotherham MBC in the matter of child safeguarding and reviews by Rotherham MBC of safeguarding children in Rotherham that fall within or refer to the period May 1 2005 to May 31 2010 and the preceding five years.

So please accede to this request. Because I am still prepared to cut you a little slack, I will accept their arrival within the next ten working days.

Since digital archives are as easy to access as a current file there should be no difficulty in gaining the necessary access.

If I do not receive all these agendas minutes and reports within the ten working days from today that I have stipulated, I will immediately refer the Council to the Information Commissioner without further reference to you.

In this unhappy eventuality – that RMBC continue to refuse to provide this information – I will also copy any such refusal by yourselves to the Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Home Affairs Committee and to every Honorable Member of that Committee.

Regards

Chris Longley MBE”

Chris Longley letter ENDS.

I will keep readers informed on what now happens.

29 thoughts on “FOI Chris Longley – Day 30 Refusal Finally Arrives!

  1. Also unfortunately, from my experience of the Information Commissioner, you are as likely to receive a satisfactory outcome to all of this as much as we are likely to have resignations from Kimber/Thacker/Stone.
    Good luck, Chris. At least all this is documented.

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  2. Perhaps we should all ask for certain meetings – bit by bit – then they can’t turn it down on theg rounds of costs – they will have to find another excuse

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  3. Why am I not surprised by the response from RMBC.

    This is the Labour run Council that hid behind community cohesion and the rest of the PC tripe to cover up the industrial scale of child abuse in Rotherham.

    Who is being protected and why?

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  4. Anonymous
    You are spot on with that ask for it year by year and it is all held electronically so could be downloaded onto a memory stick in minuets
    But the next excuse will be exempt to members of the public and press under section 12 of the local government act our transparent council
    The only way this will alter is at the ballot box

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  5. I have just been reading some of the serious case reviews that are available. It reads like a shambles of incompetence and ineffectiveness, culminating in children remaining at risk for years after services were aware and in one case, a death that might have been preventable.

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  6. From Chris Longley MBE

    Dear all

    Thank you for your support as always. And the refusal does not surprise me either:

    So I intend to exhaust all the processes that are available to secure the release of these agendas minutes and reports, and to do so through the procedures that are set out.

    It may take time, but that is what I have.

    Kindest regards

    Chris

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  7. It might now prove interesting to submit FoI requests for all exchanges of emails between Sarah Corbett and Officers/Members of RMBC in respect of this FoI request. Then we will see who if anyone is organising a cover-up.

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    • From Chris Longley MBE

      Dear Anonymous and everybody who has blogged this evening

      Thanks for all the support on this. It’s really good to know there are so many people who want to see this through. It means a lot to me.

      But I just want to keep this FOI Business as simple and uncomplicated as possible.

      However tempting it might be – and boy is it tempting!!!! – I really don’t want to offer any other distractions to the main purpose in hand of getting the agendas minutes and reports, So that means especially no other competing FOI requests..I don’t want to offer RMBC any excuses to muddy these waters further.

      For the record I must also say that I don’t want to put any paid RMBC officials in the firing line unless there is prima face evidence already in the public domain of cupable wrongdoing by that RMBC officer.

      Whilst I do not like the current FOI refusal and I am pursuing both the RMBC internal appeal and the Information Commissioner routes, there is absolutely no evidence to even suggest that the FOI rejection decision was taken on any other than the grounds stated in the email.

      And I do await with some optimism the response of The Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP and his Home Affairs Committee MP colleagues to my letter earlier this week about these same matters. It really was such an embarrassing shame that Keith Vaz couldn’t answer any of the questions about Shaun Wright – well, except that bhe should have cared for the victims a bit better …. such a shame for such a powerful politician not to be given the evidence he ordered.

      And the BBC Radio Sheffield embarassment of Mr Vaz is directly linked with this issue: we should not forget that RMBC senior officers are toying with contempt of parliament in not providing the evidence to the Committee that Keith Vaz requested from them in open public session and on the record.

      What it is to be a Select Committee Chair and have your requests ignored …

      Kind regards,

      Chris

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  8. Reblogged this on maltbyblogger and commented:
    The ‘Information Governance Unit’ at RMBC have a lot to answer to. No doubt they will find some loophole to prevent any further information from being out in public. But we have to continue to hold them and RMBC to account over this appalling situation.

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  9. Chris

    Might I suggest going to the BBC ( Look North et al ). Private Eye are pretty keen on this stuff too. Pressure from any source will continue the discomfort.

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  10. Here is the best thing since sliced bread, Cllr Larkin and Mrs Thacker have sent out an invitation to Cllrs asking them if they wish to attend training on CSE. Should an employee of RMBC who has been severely criticised by Parliament, be involved in training on the subject. You could not make it up..

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  11. Some anecdotal background to finding information on the RMBC website.
    It would have been late in 2009 that RMBC migrated to its current website , “Powered by Jadu Content Management”. I’d imagine that they also updated to their current Local Government Navigation List structure ( http://about.esd.org.uk/ ) at that time – it is not exactly uptodate today.

    Many of the older files were, for valid cost and efficiency reasons, moved off the RMBC.gov.uk server and onto the “moderngov” server, http://moderngov.rotherham.gov.uk , — and some of the data on there goes back 19 years; but it is not indexed by the google crawler that indexes the RMBC.gov.uk site.
    _________________
    … and then there is this site http://www.rscb.org.uk/
    Set up in 2009, but it has had little activity on it until 2011/2 – as far as the wayback machine can tell me.
    _________________
    All in all, there is a good chance that RMBC have no idea where the earlier records that Chris is asking for are stored.

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  12. From Chris Longley MBE

    Dear All

    Thank you again for all your supporting comments.

    As I am sure you would all expect, constructive discussions have now begun with the RMBC Information Governance Team about what they are able to provide to me and what will satisfy the requirements I have set out.

    As I write I am waiting for written email confirmation of a pattern of information that will indeed meet my requirements and at the same time be the least expensive total cost to RMBC to provide.

    It was not lost on RMBC that a stream of individual requests from individual FOI request-makers for single sets of agendas minutes and reports spanning every single meeting from 2002 to 2010 would indeed be less expensive individually.

    But it would be far far far more expensive in total.

    And such individual requests would be impossible to deny, because as you all saw the only quoted reason by RMBC for their original act of declining my request was cost. Adding any additional reason would be impossible to justify at this stage in the FOI process.

    So I will keep you posted, but I am now cautiously hopeful of a satisfactory outcome.

    Kind regards to all

    Chris

    Chris Longley MBE

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  13. I applaud your ongoing efforts to access this information, Chris, and it sounds like you have a good plan in place. If you need assistance, many of us are willing to give it and you need only ask.
    I have to say though that I don’t have any faith that the documents would provide a full and accurate picture of what went on anyway. I am sure that those who were carefully watching their backs even then will have ensured no incriminating wording was permitted into the final approved minutes. They have had many years’ practice in slippery schemes to avoid accountability and transparency.

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  14. From Chris Longley MBE

    Dear Gillian

    I wrote Committeee minutes for thirty years so I understand exactly what you are saying; but we have to start somewhere.

    I have noted the effectiveness of the Rochdale timeline in the HAC Report and an equivalent should not be beyond arrangement for Rotherham. Especially with the information about specific Rotherham cases of child sexual exploitation – disjointed and partial though they may be – that are already in the public domain. From that data we can establish benchmarks and hook the RMBC information to it.

    Rothpol has my contact details and I am entirely happy for him/her to give them to you privately (I assume he has your contact details as well as mine but if I am wrong I apologise) so we can be in direct contact about this matter. (Rothpol please note this and if you yourself want confirmation from me that this is my explicit wish, please email or telephone me to confirm).

    Again, thank you to everybody for your kind words and support. It really does mean such a lot to me. We are getting there.

    KInd regards

    Chris

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  15. Sections 9 and 13 of the Freedom of Information Act allow public authorities to charge for answering requests in certain cases.

    The Act provides for public authorities to either charge for or decline requests for information that would cost a public authority either more than £600 for central government or £450 for other public authorities to deal with the request.

    This is referred to as the appropriate limit. Public authorities are required to estimate whether a request is likely to breach the ‘appropriate limit’.

    Why didn’t Sarah try and charge you rather than just decline? Something to hide ?

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    • Who knows?
      Maybe:
      1. No one knows where the files are
      2. The costs could not be known in advance – Ms Corbett only estimated “in excess of 18 hours”. How much would Chris have to cough up – well in excess of £1,000? .
      3. Finding someone to do the work and thus taking them off their day-to-day work, in a cash-strapped local authority, would be problematical.
      4. She bridled at the title “Mrs/Ms”. (…but that is extremely unlikely).
      I think that what Chris has begun to accomplish – by negotiation – is an excellent outcome.

      I should add that I’ve always found Ms Corbett really helpful when dealing with my FoI requests.

      Like

  16. From Chris Longley MBE

    Dear “A regular reader” and “Dave”

    Again, many thanks for the support and the comments.

    I have found Ms/Mrs Corbett very pleasant and proffessional in her dealings with me, and I do expect to receive a signiicant amount of information in the near future..

    Ms/Mrs was very courteous and most willing to discuss with me a far more focussed version of my FOI application that would – because of the reduced volume of work involved – bring down the costs of RMBC’s reply. I think that is completely reasonable.

    I must also at this point repeat what I have always said about keping RMBC officers out of these matters.

    Keeping them out, that is, except where there is prima face eidence already in the public domain of their involvement in some aspect of the RMBC/Child Safeguarding Board responses to the systematic child sexual expolitation that went on during their watch in Rotherham, and where that involvement might not have met the high standards of behaviour the public is entitled to expect from officers with such duties.

    The Information Governance Team clearly falls totally outside that small cadre of officers with such duties.

    I am as I write collecting all the information that is in the public domain already so that when the agendas minutes and reports arrive I will have a framework against which to piece together the timelines of who knew what, when did they know it, what were they advised to do, and what did they actually do or not do.

    I know some readers have thought – across all these now many months – that what was done was so obvious that it was clear where culpability lay. But suspicion is never enough. Proof is what is needed and only byb assembling these chains of reports and decisions, and then linking them to what is already public, will we move beyond suspicion.

    I am as I write setting up a research room into which I intend to assemble all the various records, so that I will be able to see on display the timelines and the events and the people who are on them.

    Kind regards to all

    Chris

    Chris Longley MBE

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  17. From Chris Longley MBE

    Direct contact for me with Gillian Radcliffe? I would be most grateful. She offered me her help and I would much appreciate it.

    Kind regards

    Chris

    Chris Longley mBE

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  18. From Chris Longley MBE

    Dear Rothpol

    Gillian Radcliffe said on your blog that she would be happy to help me.

    I would be very grateful for her help.

    So I would be very grateful if you, Rothpol, would now arrange a direct contact for me with Gillian if she still wishes to help.

    Kind regards

    Chris

    Chris Longley MBE

    Like

  19. Chris
    The way to get this information is to ask for it peace meal one year at a time or less it is all held electronicaly in the councils archives.
    I have not directly asked for this as an elected member as you said you prefered for me not to and I respected your wishes and didnt want to undo any of the hard work you have put in to this
    But if you think it would help I will ask to see these files.

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  20. From Chris longley MBE

    Dear Caven

    Your offer is very kind, but I would be very grateful if you would not make requests at this stage..

    I ask this because I as a member of the public am asking RMBC for information that should be in the public domain. I have made plain to the Rothpol blog readers and contributors at every stage of this task that I am of no political affiliation.

    This is specifically so that no-one can ever say of me that I am acting this way for a political reason. I am simply in pursuit of the facts in a case of public interest and public importance.

    And so far I have every reason to believe that I will receive the more focused information that I have agreed with the RMBC Information Governance Team through the auspices of its Head. I await its arrival imminently.

    So for the present, I would be very grateful to you if you would stay your hand and not ask the questions that might bring with them a political dimension.

    But I must also make clear that I am very grateful to you for your continued interest and personal support for the action I am taking, as I am also grateful to all the other kind souls who have offered similar support and good wishes.

    With my kindest regards

    Chris

    Chris Longley MBE

    PS to Rothpol: I do hope your computer is now working.

    Like

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