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Issue: 13/05/2020

ICO's FOI handling questioned by campaign group
The Information Commissioner's Office is delaying the issue of decision notices in at least some FOI cases, with the aim of reducing new appeals to the tribunal and the burden on public authorities who would have to respond to them. The ICO recently wrote to a requester who sought a report on possible Russian interference in the 2016 Brexit referendum letting him know that his complaint has not been upheld, and adding: "the Commissioner proposes to close this case informally. Should you wish to challenge this decision at the First Tier Tribunal, please let me know and a decision notice will be prepared. Please note, however, that in order to not place undue burden on public authorities and the Tribunal during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Commissioner will not issue this decision notice immediately and will wait until such time she considers appropriate." The Campaign for FOI has questioned the response of the ICO saying: "It's not clear whether [this] represents a new approach which will apply to all decisions for the time being, or whether it is being applied in selected cases only, and if so on what basis and whether it will apply to potentially urgent requests relating to the pandemic itself." The group added: "If it is necessary to protect authorities from FOI appeals so as not to divert them from responding to the pandemic, this should be done by the tribunal which has already deferred all existing FOI appeals by two months. It should not be necessary for the ICO to withhold decision notices from the public."

Government blocks release of coronavirus modelling
The Cabinet Office is understood to be preventing the release of key data on expected coronavirus infections and deaths. Public Health England has modelled the number of deaths that could be expected under a number of scenarios, but there is not currently a working validated model that has been shared for use among local authorities. Councils have pleaded for localised numbers, and repeatedly been promised more reliable figures based on the latest modelling. However, these have failed to materialise. One source said the Local Government Association had been told the Cabinet Office was unhappy about releasing the modelling.

Prime Minister faces fresh calls for transparency over Sage pandemic advice
Downing Street is facing renewed calls for transparency about the expert advice it receives after it published the names of 50 experts who sit on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which discusses how to handle the coronavirus epidemic. The list of names, which is not complete, was released after critics raised questions about the secrecy of Sage, and the Guardian revealed that Boris Johnson's Chief Political Adviser, Dominic Cummings, had played an active role in Sage meetings. Sir David King, a former Chief Scientific Adviser, said not enough had been done to reassure people. "What we want to see is what Sage is discussing, what their advice is, what the advice of the scientists is as distinct from that of the strategy advisers. It's certainly a good step, but there's a lot more to be done," he said. 

Most oppose FOI restrictions during lockdown, Scotland poll finds

The majority of people oppose an extension of FOI request deadlines during the coronavirus crisis, a new poll has found. The responses were given from those surveyed across the UK when asked about new timescales set by the Scottish government for replying to FOI requests. In Scotland, the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill has extended the response deadline for FOI requests from 20 to 60 days with a potential further extension of 40 days. A Scottish government spokesperson said "tackling the public health crisis is the absolute priority, which means that under the temporary measures introduced we will be responding to information requests with much needed breathing space when the focus of staff is - rightly - on protecting lives and delivering essential services to the people of Scotland. We absolutely recognise the importance of upholding information rights, and will continue to respond as promptly as possible to requests for information and expect that other Scottish public authorities will endeavour to do so too."

ICIC signs joint international statement on the duty to document decisions

The International Conference of Information Commissioners has called upon decision makers in the public and private sectors to recognise the importance of records management and archives, particularly during a time of crisis. In current circumstances where records may be at risk, the statement makes three calls for action: decisions must be documented; records and data should be secured and preserved in all sectors; and security, preservation and access to digital content should be facilitated during the shutdown. The statement reads "the existence of proper documentation practices will enable not only business continuity, research and innovation, but also the evidence of how this crisis was managed for future generations." 

FOI Levels 1 & 2 available by eLearning

PDP's most popular FOI training courses, FOI Level 1 and FOI Level 2, are available via PDP's new dedicated eLearning platform. Further courses will be added in the coming days and weeks. A full list of eLearning options appears on the eLearning home page.

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Professional and practical Training Courses enable delegates to understand the legal requirements in key areas of compliance.  
The following is a selection of some of PDP's current courses.  
eLearning version of this course is now available - Find out more >

Matt Lewin Cornerstone Barristers
Matt Lewin Cornerstone Barristers

Since the Freedom of Information Act 2000 came fully into force in 2005 we have experienced a fundamental change in the relationship between UK government and its citizens as government information has become more publicly accessible. Greater transparency is also a key policy of the Coalition Government, and in light of the deficit reduction programme there is an ever increasing public interest in how public money is spent. This has led to the publication of a wide range of public sector datasets and proposals to expand the Freedom of Information Act through the Protection of Freedoms Bill. Information Officers are central to these developments and need to be fully aware of the Act and the impact of future changes to it.

This training session is designed to help those who are on the receiving end of requests for information and those who advise and assist them.

This training course can be used as credit towards gaining the Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information

Upcoming dates for this training course are:
  • London               Tuesday, 1st September 2020
  • Manchester       Monday, 28th September 2020
For further information and to make a booking,
  1. Visit PDP's website 
  2. Telephone PDP at +44 (0)207 014 3399
  3. Download our PDF Training Catalogue 
eLearning version of this course is now available - Find out more >

Liz Fitzsimons, Eversheds
Liz Fitsimons

Public sector bodies must make daily decisions on how to respond to requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and how to apply the exemptions in the Act. Those decisions are increasingly reviewed and, in many cases, overturned by the Information Commissioner, the Information Tribunal and the Courts. As case law develops and changes, public authorities need to ensure that they understand when the exemptions can be applied, and what they have to demonstrate to apply them correctly.

This training session considers in detail the practical application of the main FOI exemptions.

A discount is available for delegates booking both FOI Level 1 and FOI Level 2.

This training course can be used as credit towards gaining the Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information

Upcoming dates for this training course are:
  • London               Wednesday, 2nd September 2020
  • Manchester       Tuesday, 29th September 2020
For further information and to make a booking,
  1. Visit PDP's website 
  2. Telephone PDP at +44 (0)207 014 3399
  3. Download our PDF Training Catalogue 
eLearning version of this course available shortly

Damien Welfare, Cornerstone Barristers
Damien Welfare
The competing demands of Freedom of Information and Data Protection legislation in the UK present challenges for all public bodies involved in collecting, holding and disclosing personal information. Understanding the interface between Freedom of Information laws (including the Environmental Information Regulations 2004) and the General Data Protection Regulation is essential for all those involved with information management in the public sector.

This session, which is designed for people who already work with FOI issues, explains the key principles underlying the differences between FOI and data protection laws, including when personal data should and should not be released in response to subject access requests and FOI/EIR requests. Delegates who do not have an existing understanding of the basics of FOI law are recommended to attend FOI Level 1 before attending this session.

The session includes:
  • knowing whether a request should be dealt with under the DPA or FOI law (or EIR)
  • the latest thinking on determining what is personal data
  • the interpretation and practical application of the personal data exemption
  • the legal principles governing access to third party personal information
  • applying relevant exemptions
  • disclosing staff information to outside third parties
  • analysing the practical implications of key decisions of the Commissioner and Information Rights Tribunal
  • disclosing third party data of professionals in the fields of health, education and social work
This session enables delegates to understand how to manage requests for information, and to achieve best practice within their organisation.

This training course can be used as credit towards gaining the Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information

Upcoming dates for this training course are:

  • London              Thursday, 3rd September 2020
  • Manchester      Wednesday, 30th September 2020
For further information and to make a booking,
  1. Visit PDP's website 
  2. Telephone PDP at +44 (0)207 014 3399
  3. Download our PDF Training Catalogue 
eLearning version of this course available shortly 

The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 cover a wide range of information which has often been assumed to fall under the Freedom of Information Act.

The scope of EIR is not restricted just to "green" subjects or information, but extends to land use, planning, transport, waste, energy, agriculture, housing development, public nuisance, and aspects of public health, food safety, buildings maintenance and cultural sites.

Public authorities and their advisors, and those contracting with the public sector or carrying out public functions, need to understand the scope of the Regulations in order to handle information requests correctly. This session explains the meaning and scope of the EIR. It examines in detail the boundary with FOI, based on decisions of the Information Commissioner and Information Tribunal and on guidance from DEFRA; including the potential role of a remoteness test in limiting the range of information covered. It analyses the "exceptions" and how to approach the public interest test.

The course equips practitioners to recognise and handle practical issues arising under the Regulations with confidence, and to avoid the pitfalls of dealing with information requests under the wrong regime. Topics covered include:
  • definition and scope of environmental information
  • application in the public and private sectors
  • differences between EIR and FOI
  • EIR exceptions, and how they compare with FOI exemptions
  • requests involving personal data
  • decisions of the Information Commissioner and Tribunal
  • charging
  • best practice: EIR requests and the duty to disseminate information
The session enables delegates to handle Environmental Information with confidence.
This training course can be used as credit towards gaining the Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information

Upcoming dates for this training course are:
  • London                  Friday, 4th September 2020
  • Manchester          Thursday, 1st October 2020
For further information and to make a booking,
  1. Visit PDP's website 
  2. Telephone PDP at +44 (0)207 014 3399
  3. Download our PDF Training Catalogue 
Qualify as a RM Practitioner with this comprehensive Qualification Package  
Records Management Levels 1 & 2  
The Programme covers all aspects of good records management practice at a intoductory, intermediate and advanced level.  

Four-day Programme includes intensive training sessions and an examination  

The four day Programme provides candidates with a solid knowledge of Freedom of Information law (and the Environmental Information Regulations), as well as an understanding of the practical implications for organisations of the legal requirements, including how to manage an FOI request from inception to completion
The latest edition (Volume 16, Issue 3), features the following articles:
Expert comment

FOIMan's Festive FOI

The Cayman
Islands' Freedom of
Information Law

Recent decisions of the
Information Commissioner
and Tribunals

For more information, please visit PDP Journals

PDP 2020 Training Catalogue  
Download our latest  
Training Catalogue for a comprehensive overview of 2020 training courses and qualifications for those working in Data Protection and Information Management

Flexible training options allow you to train alongside other commitments   
"I am very pleased to have achieved the Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information. The programme provides excellent knowledge and understanding on the practical applications of handling requests for information"
Louise Smith
Financial Ombudsman Service

"A very worthwhile qualification which I wholeheartedly recommend to colleagues"
Barbara Tyldesley
The Environment Agency

"I am so pleased to have passed the Practitioner Certificate in FOI. The 4 day course was excellent and I am now confident in my role as FOI Officer for Social Services. The course has helped me develop my skills and knowledge of FOI/EIR and DP and I would encourage anyone working in this area to attend."
Rachael Strand
Flintshire County Council

"The Practitioner Certificate in FOI was an excellent opportunity to receive specialised training and gain a recognised qualification. In particular, I found the instructors to be both knowledgeable and engaging. As a regulator in an overseas territory, I was easily able to translate the learning into practice. I have and do encourage other FOI practitioners to take advantage of this training programme."
Clara Smith
Information Commissioner's Office (Grand Cayman)

"I am delighted to have passed my examination, achieving this qualification and attending the courses have been a very positive experience which have boosted my confidence and enthusiasm for this subject. I found the courses very informative and the course handout binders are an excellent reference tool which is very relevant to the workplace."

Julie Johnson
Durham County Council

"I'm delighted to have passed the exam; it was hard work preparing for an exam, having not sat one for over 10 years, but the course materials really helped structure my revision. Passing has increased my confidence in dealing with the Act which will be of benefit to myself as well as my organisation."

Heledd Thomas
Comisiynydd y Gymraeg

"I found this to be a comprehensive course, which was well structured to be relevant and of interest to everyone from FOI beginners to more seasoned practitioners. The course tutors were very knowledgeable and clearly very interested in their respective topic areas, and the course was similarly detailed and well-taught."
Mark Reynolds

"I'm thrilled to have gained this qualification. FOI can be a complicated area to understand and apply, but the tutors were excellent in bringing it to life in an interesting way."
Angela Sanderson
Big Lottery Fund

"The Practitioner's Certificate has equipped me with the knowledge and confidence to undertake my role. I found the courses well presented and easy to follow. The case studies are particularly useful, as they give an insight into different scenarios that one may experience. I would recommend PDP to anyone wanting to gain this qualification."
Kim Starbuck
London Borough of Barking and Dagenham


"Both the thought provoking training and materials as well as passing the exam will help to ensure we provide a prompt quality service when dealing with information requests particularly as those involving planning can raise complex issues"
John Pierce
The Department for Communities and Local Government


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