Reflections of an Act Now FOI Trainer

People in a meeting

Susan Wolf writes…

They say time flies when you are having fun. Well, I must have been having fun because I can’t quite believe I have been training with Act Now for over 12 months. Really where has the time gone? During my time at the University of Northumbria I developed the habit of keeping a journal in which I reflected on my teaching. Old habits die hard and I have continued this practice now that I am a regular Act Now training consultant. Looking back over my journal for the last 12 months a number of common themes became apparent. I thought it might be interesting to share these. However before I do, I just want to thank all the delegates I have met for challenging me, keeping me on my toes and reminding me how interesting life can be in Freedom of Information Land.

Training practitioners is not something new to me. For over 11 years I taught FOI practitioners on the Northumbria University LLM in Information Rights Law & Practice Degree. However, the Act Now courses, with their focus on practical training have exposed me to a wider range of people, from a wide range of public sector organisations, all trying to get to grips with broadly similar issues. From the most experienced practitioner who wants a ‘top up course’ to the absolute beginner who has just landed their first job in information rights, all practitioners appear to share some common concerns and worries.

There are also some widely shared misconceptions which still seem to cause the odd debate, despite the Freedom of Information Act 2000 being almost 15 years old. For instance, I have heard some delegates say that the ‘clock start’s ticking’ on a FOI request on the day it is received by a public authority. I have also heard delegates talk about fines that the ICO can impose for breaches of the Freedom of Information Act. Those are always good to correct, and it is nice to hear the sigh of relief when they are advised correctly on these points.

However, I also frequently get asked questions that there are, quite simply, no definitive answers to. In good ‘lawyer’ tradition I could say ‘well that depends’ but that isn’t always what people want to hear. For example, I have been asked questions about how far a public authority must go in advising and assisting an applicant, or how many times they need to go back to the applicant to clarify a tricky request. Another question that taxes people is how long it is reasonable to wait between requests before engaging S. 14 (2) for repeated requests. These are always good for some discussion, but often time is limited on a one-day course, particularly when delegates quite rightly expect we cover all the course content.

Other misconceptions or worries centre on issues relating to the redaction of staff names in email correspondence; how to distinguish between ‘business as usual’ questions and FOI requests; or the significance of ‘confidentiality’ markings on information provided by third party contractors. The ‘new’ Freedom of Information 2018 Code of Practice addresses some of these issues. However not all FOI practitioners are necessarily aware of the provisions of the new Code. Of course, it is difficult for practitioners, who are undoubtedly over-burdened, to keep up to date and on top of things, or indeed for us to cover these issues in detail in a one-day course. One way of keeping up to date is to read our Act Now blogs, which are all written by Act Now consultants and which deal with new developments and case law. However, this journey of reflection has made me realise that it would be useful to write some ‘Back to Basics’ blogs that address some of the issues and concerns that I know FOI practitioners share. Over the coming months we will be publishing a series of ‘FOI Basics Blogs’ on the issues raised during our one-day FOI courses starting with a blog on ‘Business as Usual or FOI Request’?

For those FOI practitioners who want to take their training and understanding to the next level, Act Now Training now offer a 4-day FOI Practitioner Certificate this course is modelled on the highly successful GDPR Practitioner Certificate and was launched in May 2019. We have now delivered it seven times and it is absolutely clear this model enables FOI practitioners to develop a more detailed knowledge and understanding of the FOI in practice. It gives delegates the chance to explore the exemptions in far more detail over two days, with Day 3 focussing on the most frequently used exemptions, including Sections 40 and 43. The course also prepares delegates for writing a Refusal Notice which forms part of the final assessment.

Delegates have given very positive feedback:

“The course was very well structured and well timed. The length of the course was ideal as this gave sufficient time to discuss all areas relating to FOI and also gave candidates ample time for discussion and study. The trainer was very supportive and the knowledge that has been imparted has enabled me to develop the FOI function with our organisation. Highly Recommended.”
JW, Heywood Middleton and Rochdale NHS

“The course was excellent and really sets you up for the exam, I would recommend it to others working in the field. I have put what I learned on the course to good use as I am a FOI and DPA Manager in a very busy post with lots of business each and every day; many of the requests are unusual. The course and now passing the exam have given me the confidence to do my job.”
JH, NI Courts and Tribunals Service

“Thank you for a great course – as always all the trainers at Act Now are extremely knowledgeable, approachable and make the learning experience really enjoyable.”
KF, St Helens Council

As you can see Delegates are enjoying the course content and delivery style. Most importantly they are able to take away their gained knowledge and apply it to their everyday role with confidence. After all, that is the purpose and objective of a course such as this. It makes me immensely proud and pleased to be able to be a part of the team that helps delegates in this way everyday and I look forward to the next 12 months.

Susan Wolf is a trainer for Act Now Training. She has over ten years experience teaching information rights practitioners on the LLM Information Rights Law & Practice at Northumbria University. All our trainers are available to deliver customised in house training, health checks and audits. Please read the testimonials from satisfied clients and get in touch for a quote.

Information Governance Experts Join the Act Now Team

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(From Left to Right: Steven Cockcroft, Craig Geddes, Barry Moult.)

Act Now Training is pleased to announce that three new highly regarded information governance experts have joined its team of consultants.

Cyber security is one of the Information Commissioner’s regulatory priorities for the coming year. This is not surprising when you consider the recent Notices of Intent (to fine) issued by the ICO. We are developing a range of cyber security courses for the coming year. First off we have launched an Introduction to Cyber Security workshop led by our new consultant Steven Cockcroft.

Steven holds accredited trainer status from the British Computer Society, PECB and APMG. He is also accredited under the GCHQ Certified Trainer scheme, delivering training in the areas of Cyber Security, Information Security, Data Protection, Business Continuity Management, Audit, Risk Management and Business Continuity Management. Steven has assisted over 30 organisations to become certified to international best practice information security frameworks including the UK Government Cyber Essentials Scheme, ISO 27001 and ISO 22301.

Act Now has been running a full programme of information governance workshops in Scotland for many years. We have boosted our team of Scottish consultants by engaging Craig Geddes who is a qualified archivist and records manager, with 28 years of experience working across the range of information governance activities. He has worked for several Scottish local authorities as Archivist, Records Manager, and Senior Information and Improvement Officer. Craig has developed and delivered training on records management, freedom of information and data protection for a number of years, and is an engaging and entertaining speaker. Craig will help deliver our current Scottish courses, both in house and external, and develop new ones such as the recently launched Public Records (Scotland) Act Now workshop.

Act Now’s portfolio of clients includes many health organisations. With a view to delivering more health focused information governance courses, Barry Moult has joined our team. Barry is a well know IG expert with many years of experience working with and advising NHS organisations. He founded and has chaired the Eastern Region IG Forum since 2003. Until August 2018, Barry was the Chair of the NHS National Strategical Information Governance Network (SIGN) group and continues to sit on the NHS GDPR working group. Prior to that, he was Head of IG and Health Records at two large NHS Acute Trusts and was recently on a secondment to a local STP looking at information sharing and GDPR for Health and Social Care.

Barry will be delivering our health focused workshops on GDPR and the role of SIROs. Barry has also developed a new workshop for Caldicott Guardians to help them understand and apply the Caldicott Principles and the common law duty of confidentiality in a Health and Social Care setting. He will also look at the legislative requirements (e.g. GDPR) how they apply to patients’ records and what to consider when making moral and ethical decisions. There will also be discussion around how the Caldicott Guardian interacts with the Information Governance Lead, the Data Protection Officer and the Senior Information Risk Owner (SIRO).

The latest recruits boost the number of Act Now consultants to thirteen. Ibrahim Hasan, solicitor and director of Act Now Training,  said:

“I am pleased that Steven, Craig and Barry have joined our wonderful team of consultants who all have a reputation for explaining difficult subjects in a simple jargon-free way. Their knowledge of information rights coupled with real world experience will help us expand our services and deliver even more courses to our rapidly expanding client base.”

Act Now Training is now one of the largest information governance training and consultancy companies in the UK with over 17 years of experience in the sector.  Our trainers are available to deliver customised in house training, health checks and audits. Please read the testimonials from satisfied clients and get in touch for a quote.

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Act Now’s FOI Practitioner Certificate: The Story So Far

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At the end of 2018 Act Now announced the launch of its new FOI Practitioner Certificate. In keeping with the company’s ethos of delivering on the ground practical training, the new course is designed to meet the needs of practitioners and to enable them to fulfil their roles as FOI Officers.

Act Now is pleased to inform readers that in May and June the first two cohorts of delegates attended our fully booked courses in London and Manchester respectively.
The courses were designed and delivered by Susan Wolf, formerly a senior lecturer on the University of Northumbria’s LLM in Information Rights Law.

The course has so far attracted delegates from a range of public authorities, including the Crown Prosecution Service, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCGA), Nursing and Midwifery Council, University of West London, Dudley CCG, Land Registry, Lancashire Council, Cheshire Police and St Leger Homes,

Susan says:

 “I have looked at every aspect of this revised course to ensure it equips FOI officers with the knowledge they need to tackle FOI in a practical way.”

The course uses the same format as our very successful GDPR Practitioner Certificate.
It takes place over four days (one day per week) and involves lectures, discussion and practical drafting exercises. All delegates are encouraged to actively participate and share their experiences, in order to create an inclusive environment.  Over the coming months, further courses will be delivered by Susan, Ibrahim Hasan and Philip Jones.

What’s new?

The new course offers several innovations, which Act Now believes makes the it distinctive and highly relevant to FOI Officers and other practitioners with responsibility for providing access to public information. One innovation is that time is made available each day for delegates to reflect on what they have learned and how it will inform their practice. From her experience of delivering of training the first two cohorts, Susan noted:

Delegates were able to share their experiences and problems, and more importantly offer suggestions for tackling problems.  This was particularly useful for delegates with limited FOI experience, or from smaller organisations, who were able to take away practical suggestions about how to handle requests and deal with the exemptions.

The course also encourages delegates to become independent learners and provides guidance on ‘keeping up to date’ and understanding how cases are handled by the First Tier Information Rights Tribunal.  Susan says:

The law isn’t static; we keep getting new ICO guidance, based on Tribunal and Court decisions. It is important that FOI practitioners understand the importance of keeping up to date, and how to do this.”

The assessment of the course is innovative and modern. The assessment model will be very familiar to people who have undertaken our GDPR Practitioner Certificate. First delegates must complete a one-hour MCQ test. This is  worth 30% of the overall assessment. The remaining 70% involves a written project.  Delegates are given a practical scenario which requires them to draft a Refusal Notice and explain how they would handle the request and their selection of exemptions. All delegates receive detailed feedback on their written projects. Our Scottish FOISA course also now follows the same format.

Susan says:

The assessment has been designed to be relevant and useful; I can see little point in giving delegates a task that has no meaning to their practice.  Instead we want our delegates to feel like the assessment will inform their practice and enable them to enhance and develop their skills. Writing a robust refusal notice is an essential skill for FOI practitioners and lies at the heart of our assessment on this course.”

The delegate feedback so far has been excellent and it seems that this course has plugged a gap in the market:

An excellent course taught by someone with all the relevant knowledge and experience to impart to the delegates. Also very useful course materials which have proved to be helpful to me on a day to day basis in my job. I would really recommend this course to anyone who is dealing with FOI’s in their job.
JC, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)

Ibrahim Hasan (Director of Act Now Training) says:

“We are pleased that this new FOI certificate course is meeting the training needs of FOI officers. Because of its emphasis on practical skills, we are confident that it will become the qualification of choice for current and future FOI Officers and advisers.”

More venues have been added for this course including Belfast. All our courses can be delivered at your premises at a substantially reduced cost.

Contact us for more information.

Act Now Launches New FOI Practitioner Certificate

 

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Act Now is pleased to announce the launch of its brand new FOI Practitioner Certificate.

This course is one of the first of its kind, in a way that only Act Now delivers – practical, on the ground skills to help you fulfil your role as an FOI Officer.

This new certificate course is ideal for those wishing to acquire detailed knowledge of FOI and related information access legislation (including EIR) in a practical context. It has been designed by leading FOI experts including Ibrahim Hasan and Susan Wolf – formerly a senior lecturer on the University of Northumbria’s LLM in Information
Rights Law.

The course uses the same format as our very successful GDPR Practitioner Certificate. It takes place over four days (one day per week) and involves lectures, discussion and practical drafting exercises. This format has been extremely well received by over 1000  delegates who have completed the course. Time will also be spent at the end of each day discussing what issues delegates may face when implementing/advising on the FOI topics of the day.

The four teaching days are followed by an online assessment and a practical project to be completed within 30 days.

Why is this course different?

  • An emphasis on practical application of FOI rather than rote learning
  • Lots of real life case studies and exercises
  • An emphasis on drafting Refusal Notices
  • An online Resource Lab with links, guidance and over 5 hours of videos
  • Modern assessment methods rather than a closed book exam

 Who should attend?

This course is suitable for anyone working within the public sector who needs to learn about FOI and related legislation in a practical context, as well as those with the requisite knowledge wishing to have it recognised through a formal qualification. It is most suitable for:

  • FOI Officers
  • Data Protection Officers
  • Compliance Officers
  • Auditors
  • Legal Advisers

Susan, says:

“FOI and EIR are almost 14 years old. Since the Act and Regulations came into force there have been many legal developments and court decisions that have given practitioners a much greater understanding of the legal provisions and how they should be applied in practice. With this in mind, we have written this course to ensure that it equips public sector officers with all the necessary knowledge and skills they need to respond to freedom of information requests accurately and efficiently. This course, with its emphasis on the law in practice, will enable trainees to become more accomplished and confident FOI practitioners”

Susan will share her vast experience gained through years of helping organisations comply with their information rights legislation obligations. This, together with a comprehensive set of course materials and guidance notes, will mean that delegates will not only be in a position to pass the course assessment but to learn valuable skills which they will be able to apply in their workplaces for years to come.

This new course builds on Act Now’s reputation for delivering practical training at an affordable price:

This new course widens the choice of qualifications for IG practitioners and advisers. Ibrahim Hasan (Director of Act Now Training) commented:

“We are pleased be able to launch this new qualification. Because of its emphasis on practical skills, we are confident that it will become the qualification of choice for current and future FOI Officers and advisers.”

To learn more please visit our website.

All our courses can be delivered at your premises at a substantially reduced cost.
Contact us for more information.

Revised S.45 Code of Practice under FOI

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GDPR has taken the limelight from other information governance legislation especially Freedom of Information.  In July 2018, the Cabinet Office published a new code of practice under section 45 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000(FOI) replacing the previous version.

In July 2015 the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information was established by the Cabinet Office to examine the Act’s operation. The Commission concluded that the Act was working well. It did though make twenty-one recommendations to enhance the Act and further the aims of transparency and openness. The government agreed to update the S.45 Code of Practice following a consultation exercise in November 2017.

The revised code provides new, updated or expanded guidance on a variety of issues, including:

  • Transparency about public authorities’ FOI performance and senior pay and benefits, to mandate the FOI Commission recommendations for greater openness in both areas.
  • The handling of vexatious and repeated requests. The FOI Commission specifically recommended the inclusion of guidance on vexatious requests.
  • Fundamental principles of FOI not previously included in the code, e.g. general principles about how to define “information” and that which is “held” for the purposes of the Act.

In the latter section the code makes a number of interesting points:

  • Information disclosed as part of “routine business” is not an FOI request. Section 8of the Act sets out the definition of a valid FOI request. Judge for yourself if this advice is accurate.
  • Information that has been deleted but remains on back-ups is not held. This goes against a Tribunal Decision as well as ICO guidance.
  • Requests for information made in a foreign language are not valid FOI requests. Again refer to section 8 above. It does not say a request has to be in English!

The code is not law but the Information Commissioner can issue Practice Recommendations where she considers that public authorities have not complied with it. The Commissioner can also refer to non -compliance with the code in Decision and Enforcement Notices.

As well as giving more guidance on advice and assistance, costs, vexatious requests and consultation, the code places new “burdens”:

  • Public authorities should produce a guide to their Publication Scheme including a schedule of fees.
  • Those authorities with over 100 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) employees should publish details of their performance on handling FOI requests on a quarterly basis.
  • Pay, expenses and benefits of the senior staff at director level and equivalents should be published quarterly. Of course local authorities are already required to publish some of this information by the Local Government Transparency Code.
  • The public interest test extension to the time limit for responding to an FOI request (see S.10(3)) should normally be no more than 20 working days.
  • Internal reviews should normally be completed within 20 working days.

Furthermore, the other S.45 Code covering datasets has been merged with the main section 45 Code so that statutory guidance under section 45 can be found in one place. There is also an annex explaining the link between the FOI dataset provisions and the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015.

Public authorities need to consider the new code carefully and change their FOI compliance procedures accordingly.

We will be discussing this and other recent FOI developments in our forthcoming FOI Update webinar.

Freedom of Information: New Draft S.45 Code of Practice

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Amongst all the hype about GDPR it is easy to miss developments in other areas of information law.  In November 2017, the Cabinet Office published the revised code of practice (under section 45 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000) for consultation.

In July 2015 the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information was established by the Cabinet Office to examine FOI’s operation. In its report the Commission concluded that FOI was working well. It did though make twenty-one recommendations to enhance the Act and further the aims of transparency and openness.

In its response to the Commission’s report, the government agreed to update the S.45 Code of Practice. The draft code provides new, updated or expanded guidance on a variety of issues, including:

  • Transparency about public authorities’ FOI performance and senior pay and benefits, to mandate FOI Commission recommendations for greater openness in both areas.
  • The handling of vexatious and repeated requests. The FOI Commission specifically recommended the inclusion of guidance on vexatious requests.
  • Fundamental principles of FOI not currently included in the Code, e.g. generalprinciples about how to define “information” and that which is “held” for the purposes of the Act.

The code is not law but the Information Commissioner can issue Practice Recommendations where she considers that public authorities have not complied with the guidance set out in this Code. The Commissioner can also refer to non -compliance with the Code in Decision and Enforcement Notices.

As well as giving more guidance on advice ad assistance, costs, vexatious requests and consultation the code places new “burdens” on public authorities including the following:

  • Public authorities should produce a guide to their Publication Scheme.
  • Those authorities with over 100 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) employees should, as a matter of best practice, publish details of their performance on handling FOI requests.
  • Pay (salaries over £90,000), expenses and benefits of senior staff at director level and equivalents should be published at regular intervals. Of course local authorities are already required to publish some of this information by the Local Government Transparency Code.

  • The public interest test extension to the time limit for responding to an FOI request should normally be no more than 20 working days.
  • Internal reviews should normally be completed within 20 working days.

Furthermore, the other S.45 Code covering datasets will be merged with the main section 45 Code so that statutory guidance under section 45 can be found in one place. There will also be an annex explaining the link between the FOI dataset provisions and the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015.

Public authorities need to consider the draft code carefully and decide whether the additional obligations are workable given pressures on resources, especially due to GDPR’s pending implementation.

The deadline for consultation responses is 2nd February 2018.

 

We will be discussing this and other recent FOI decisions in our forthcoming FOI workshops and webinars. For those wanting an internationally recognised qualification the BCS Certificate in Freedom of Information  starts in February 2018 in Manchester and London.

Scottish Information Commissioner’s Annual Report 2016/17

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Last month, Margaret Keyse, the Acting Scottish Information Commissioner, published her annual report for 2016/17.  Amongst other laws, Ms Keyse enforces the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA).

The report reveals that during 2016/17:

  • Public awareness of FOISA remained at its highest ever level, at 85%.
  • The Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner (OSIC) met or exceeded most of its investigation performance targets (10 out of 12).
  • It issued its first ever Enforcement Notices.
  • It carried out 15 level 4 interventions with authorities to address practice concerns.
  • It launched an online appeal service, making it possible for requestors to make appeals online, and receive real-time help and advice, at any time of day.
  • It responded to its 20,000th enquiry since 2005.

Act Now has a full programme of FOISA workshops in Scotland. If you are new to FOI in Scotland or want to boost your career through gaining a qualification, our FOISA Practitioner Certificate is ideal. The four day course is endorsed by the Centre for FOI ,based at Dundee University.

The next course starts in Edinburgh in February 2018. If you’re considering enrolling on the course, what can you expect? Read a successful candidate’s observations.

Councillors, council tax arrears and FOI

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Some council chiefs, as well as some councillors, do not like the Freedom of Information Act 2000(FOI) claiming, amongst other things, that it costs too much and is used to request trivial information. Against this backdrop, how do council FOI officers deal with requests (often from journalists) for the names of councillors who are in arrears or have defaulted on their council tax bills?

Some councils have refused such requests citing the section 40(2) exemption for third party personal data. For this exemption to be engaged a public authority must show that disclosure of the name(s) would breach one of the Data Protection Principles. Most cases in this area focus on First Principle and so public authorities have to ask, would disclosure be fair and lawful? They also have to justify the disclosure by reference to one of the conditions in Schedule 2 of the DPA (as well as Schedule 3  in the case of sensitive personal data). In the absence of consent, most authorities end up considering whether disclosure is necessary for the applicant to pursue a legitimate interest and, even if it is, whether the disclosure is unwarranted due to the harm caused to the subject(s) (condition 6 of Schedule 2)? Of course when the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on 25th May 2018 the disclosure of the data will have to be justified by reference to Article 6 of GDPR.

A 2016 Upper Tribunal decision sheds light on this difficult issue. Haslam v Information Commissioner and Bolton Council [2016] UKUT 0139 (AAC) (10 March 2016) concerned a request by a journalist (Mr Haslam) for disclosure of information about councillors who had received reminders for non-payment of council tax since May 2011.  The Council told the appellant that there were six such councillors and informed him which political party they were members of, how much had been owed, how much was outstanding, and that two had been summoned to court.  The Appellant asked for the names of the individual councillors.  The Council refused stating that the names were exempt from disclosure under section 40(2) FOI.  The Appellant appealed to the First-tier Tribunal, against the decision of the Information Commissioner to uphold the Refusal Notice, in relation to the two councillors who had been summoned to court. The First-tier Tribunal dismissed the appeal.  Subsequently one councillor voluntarily identified himself, so that there was only an issue regarding one councillor before the Upper Tribunal.

The Upper Tribunal allowed the appeal concluding that releasing the name would not contravene the data protection principles, because processing was necessary for the purposes of legitimate interests pursued by the Appellant, and was not unwarranted because of prejudice to the councillor’s rights/legitimate interests.  This was a public matter in which the councilor could not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Judge Markus in her judgment said:

“40. But, in the case of a councillor, it is not only a private matter. A councillor is a public official with public responsibilities to which non-payment of council tax is directly and significantly relevant.  A number of specific features of this were advanced in submissions to the First-tier Tribunal.  In particular, section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 bars a councillor from voting on the Council’s budget if he or she has an outstanding council tax debt of over two months.  If a councillor is present at any meeting at which relevant matters are discussed, he or she must disclose that section 106 applies and may not vote.  Failure to comply is a criminal offence. Thus council tax default strikes at the heart of the performance of a councillor’s functions. It is evident that setting the council’s budget is one of the most important roles undertaken by councillors.  The loss of one vote could make a fundamental difference to the outcome. This adds a significant public dimension to the non-payment of council tax.  The very fact that Parliament has legislated in this way reflects the connection between non-payment and the councillor’s public functions.  Moreover, as the Commissioner observed in his decision notice, recent failure to pay council tax is likely to impact on public perceptions and confidence in a councillor as a public figure.

  1. These factors are of critical relevance to expectation.  As the Commissioner  had observed, those who have taken public office should expect to be subject to a higher degree of scrutiny and that information which impinges on their public office might be disclosed.  More specifically, unless the local electorate know the identity of a councillor to whom section 106 applies, they cannot discover that that councillor is failing to fulfil his functions.  Nor can they know that the process of declarations under section 106 is being adhered to. In addition the electorate may wish to know whether they can trust a councillor properly to discharge his functions if he stands for office again.” 

So there we have it. Councillors can normally expect to have their names disclosed if they default on council tax. However this is not an absolute rule. In the words of Judge Markus (at paragraph 56):

“There may be exceptional cases in which the personal circumstances of a councillor are so compelling that a councillor should be protected from such exposure.”

The Bolton News, where the Appellant works, finally named the councillor who is the subject of this case (Click here if interested). By the way, I may share a name with him but I can assure you that I am up to date with my council tax bill payments!

We will be discussing this and other recent FOI decisions in our forthcoming FOI workshops and webinars.

How would you do on the BCS Certificate in Freedom of Information exam? Have a go at our test.

New Local Government Transparency Code Consultation

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The Local Government Transparency Code is due to be updated once again to require local authorities to proactively publish even more information. The Department for Communities and Local Government is consulting on proposals to require councils to publish:

  • more information about land and property assets they hold on the Government’s electronic Property Information Management System
  • existing procurement publication in particular forms
  • the costs of “in-house” service contracts above £500k
  • greater detail about parking charges as well as statistics about the enforcement of parking restrictions
  • information about dealings with small and medium-sized enterprises
  • all information under the Code through a single website landing page

The Code is made under Section 3 of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 which gives the Secretary of State the power to issue a code of practice about the publication of information by local authorities in England (as well as, amongst others, National Park Authorities, Fire and Waste Authorities and Integrated Transport Authorities) relating to the discharge of their functions.

In February 2015 the code was re issued to require local authorities to publish information about their social housing stock.  Smaller councils, including parish councils have to comply with the Transparency Code for Smaller Authorities, which was published in December 2014.

The consultation began on 12th May 2016. All responses should be received by no later than 8th July 2016.

Give your career a boost by gaining an internationally recognised qualification in FOI. No time/budget to attend courses? Keep up to date with all the latest FOI decisions by viewing our live one-hour web seminars

New IRMS Certificate in Information Governance


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Today, the Information and Records Management Society (IRMS) and Act Now Training launched the IRMS Foundation Certificate in Information Governance. This represents the first fully online certificated course covering data protection, freedom of information and records management.

In difficult economic times, traditional face-to-face learning is often the first activity to fall victim of budget cuts. However the area of Information Governance is currently the subject of rapid change. After four years of negotiation, the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has now been formally adopted by the European Parliament and will come into force on 25th May 2018.  The FOI Commission’s report, published in March, will lead to additional obligations for public authorities under the Freedom of Information Act. And the list goes on…

Employees and managers, both in the public and private sector, need timely and cost effective IG training.  The IRMS Foundation Certificate in Information Governance is the solution. This is an online certificated course designed for information management professionals who need to know about the basics of information rights and information management in their job role. It is an ideal starter qualification for those who wish to then progress to more advanced qualifications such as the as our Practitioner Certificate In Data Protection and the BCS FOI and DP Certificates.

Launched at the 2016 IRMS conference in Brighton, the IRMS Foundation Certificate in Information Governance is a fully online yet interactive course. There are four learning modules (Records Management, Security and Information Assurance, Data Protection and Freedom of Information). Using the latest web based technology, delegates will be able to learn from the comfort of their own desk by attending four live online webinars. In addition they will be able to tailor their learning through doing four recorded modules from a choice of six. Finally they will do a short online assessment to achieve the certificate endorsed by the excellent reputation of the IRMS.

Ibrahim Hasan, Director of Act Now Training, has developed the course with IRMS colleagues. He said:

“I am really pleased to have been involved with the development of this ground breaking new online qualification. I have used my experience in delivering Information Governance training for many years to help create a product which will hopefully meet a previously unmet demand amongst Information Management professionals.”

Meic Pierce Owen, the Chair of the IRMS said:

“I am genuinely proud to have overseen the development of this important qualification that offers all information professionals the opportunity to gain a solid grounding in contemporary Information Governance (IG). This qualification has relevance across all sectors and is equally valid for those looking to master the basics of contemporary IG as it is for those looking to progress to practitioner level study.

As a generalist practitioner who qualified from University just ahead of Data Protection, Freedom of Information and Information Security being covered in any detail on the courses, I am also delighted to put my money where my mouth is and be the first to sign up to study for this qualification- which I believe to be relevant to my CPD as well as being excellent value for money. I shall let you know how I get on…”

If you would like to know more about this exciting new course please visit us at the IRMS stand at the Brighton conference. See also our dedicated IRMS Certificate webpages or get in touch.

Be an Information Superhero and gain a Superhero Qualification!

 

 

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