Hello, press office? What’s that? The information has to come via FOI?

The other week I blogged on the rather surreal case of the council which was complaining about too many FOI requests – only to insist on an FOI request if people wanted details about the types of FOI requests they were receiving.

Last week, the Herald Express in Devon reported that a local housing association was giving the local council in Torbay cause for concern over the state of a block of flats.

A letter seen by the Herald Express, from the council to the housing association, said there was a ‘high probability of serious injury’ because of substandard fire safety measures at the block of flats.

Quite a good story, obviously, and one you’d have thought Torbay Council would have been keen to comment on, given its concerns and its general remit to protect the interests of residents in the area.

Local MP Adrian Sanders is quite concerned, and wants to know what action the council can take to see improvements made.

The local housing association, perhaps unsurprisingly, isn’t so keen to comment, and referred the paper back to previous comments it had made.

So what of Torbay Council, well-positioned to demonstrate it is determined to ensure houses are up to standard in its area.

The Herald Express reports:

Torbay Council said it would only reply to a Freedom of Information request.

Why on earth would it put that statement out? To give it 20 days to come up with an answer which demonstrates it has done its job properly? Or because it thinks that reporters can’t be bothered waiting 20 days?

As the Herald Express article shows, Torbay’s council certainly didn’t manage to stop the article going to press.

And, hopefully, the council will bear its position on releasing information in mind next time officers grumble about the volume of FOI requests coming in and the impact that has on officers’ time.


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