Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Information on excessive expenses claims to be released under FOI

ICO press release:

The Information Commissioner has ordered Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council to reveal the names of some of the councillors and officials who repaid money to the council after making excessive expenses claims. The council had refused to release the information suggesting that it would contravene the Data Protection Act.

In his decision the Information Commissioner has distinguished between repayments made on a voluntary basis and so-called criminal repayments made by members and officials, following an investigation by South Yorkshire Police in the late 1990s. Under the Freedom of Information Act the council must now disclose the names of those convicted and the amount they were told to repay. However, the Information Commissioner does not require the names of the people who made voluntary repayments to be disclosed, as he considers that to do so would be unfair to those involved. At the time the expenses were claimed, the council did not have any clear guidance on appropriate amounts to claim for expenses.

The council was right that responding fully to the initial request would have exceeded the appropriate time limit, however the Information Commissioner found that the council breached the Freedom of Information Act by failing to offer the person requesting the information an opportunity to narrow the request to bring it within the limit.

The council now has 35 calendar days from the date of the Decision Notice to disclose the information. The full Decision Notice is available from 31 January.

1 comment:

Phil Bradshaw said...

I am surpised the decision does not even consider the statutory duty to publish and allow inspection of the payments register now in The Local Authorities (Members' Allowances) (England) Regulations 2003. I would expect the register of payments to acknowledge any repayments - otherwise it is not an accurate record.