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Freedom of Information requests

Recently we have been made aware that some local authorities have received a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to release all correspondence between themselves and community transport operators sent since the issue of the 31 July 2017 letter from the Department for Transport “The Issue and Use of Section 19 and Section 22 Permits for Road Passenger Transport in Great Britain”.
 
Freedom of Information Requests
In England, Northern Ireland and Wales the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 and in Scotland the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 provides access by the public to information held by public authorities. It does this in two ways:

  • public authorities are obliged to publish certain information about their activities; and
  • members of the public are entitled to request information from public authorities.

Public authorities include government departments, local authorities, the NHS, state schools and police forces.  Community transport organisations as private bodies would not normally be required to respond to an FOI request, if that request came directly to their organisation.  You can find more information on FOI requests from the Information Commissioner’s Office here.
 

Responding to Local Authority requests to CTA members

If you have been contacted by your local authority informing you of this FOI request, and asking you to respond, you may be able to use the following guidance to claim an exemption under the FOI Act, meaning information regarding your organisation will not have to be released.
 
Based on advice we have provided to members on the FOI request, it’s possible that information provided in your correspondence regarding, for example, your operation, use of section 19/22 permits or organisational planning could fall under the following exemptions detailed in Part II of the FOI Act  or for Scotland, Part II FOI (Scotland) Act:

  • Information provided in confidence
  • Information that would be considered commercially sensitive

It may be possible to claim one or both of these exemptions if the content of your correspondence with your local authority includes: 

  • Information that could be used by competitors and could therefore potentially harm your organisation, or others’ commercial interests.
  • Information that could be considered confidential as it could damage your organisations, or others’ competitive position by revealing information that could assist competitors.
  • Information that could be considered confidential as it reveals personal information such as drivers’ ages or medical history.

These exemptions would normally apply where the information can be considered:
a) not trivial; and
b) not otherwise accessible.

If you have been contacted by your local authority and/or would like any assistance in identifying potential exemptions, please let us know by contacting our Advice Service on advice@ctauk.org or 0345 130 6195.

13/04/2018
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