Freedom of information response

Coronavirus

Publication date: 
Monday 30 March 2020
Request: 

Copies of any reports/plans/analysis your council has prepared on the potential impact of Coronavirus.

Response: 

Unfortunately we are unable to supply the information you have requested. The Council does hold this information, but it is exempt from disclose to you and will not be provided. Please see details below:

Section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000

Business Continuity Planning occurs at every level of the council.  There is a requirement that each service shall maintain their own Business Continuity Plan (taking into account their individual service delivery needs) and many function-wide business continuity plans are held centrally. 

We have formed various response groups, representing all functions of the council, to ensure that, if the need arises, timely action can be taken.

However, given the cross-cutting nature of Covid19 it is likely that there is business continuity planning being undertaken at a lower level than would be recorded centrally.

Because of the disparate provision of Business Continuity Plans it would be extremely time-consuming to attempt to identify them all.  We would need to identify or approach all relevant assistant directors, directors and team managers as well as other officers in policy and other central functions including legal services and third-party providers in order to retrieve them, before correlating any possible response to you.  Even if each person contacted spent only 10 minutes on your request, I estimate that this would take in excess of 30 hours to complete.

For the purpose of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 this is a request with which the Council is not required to provide because the cost of complying with this request would exceed £450 charged at £25 per hour in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Fees and Appropriate Limits) Regulations 2004.

Therefore, under section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act we are not required to respond to this request.

Section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000

Any plans may include references to roles and responsibilities of both senior and junior staff and their telephone numbers and those of third parties. Section 40(3)(a)(i) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 states that personal data relating to third parties is exempt if disclosure would breach any of the principles set out in schedule 1 of the Data Protection Act.  We believe that providing you with the information would breach the following Data Protection principles:

•  Data shall be fairly and lawfully processed

•  Data shall be processed for limited purposes.

In that case we apply this exemption because:

a)  we do not have the consent of the person who is the subject of the information to disclose it to you,

b)  disclosure does not meet any of the schedule 2 conditions that would make it “necessary”, and

c)  disclosure of the information to you would not be connected to the purpose for which we have collected and are holding the information,

d)  the data subjects would not expect this information about them to be shared publicly and it would not be fair to disclose this information to the public

In such circumstances this is an absolute exemption and does not require a public interest test.

Section 38 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000

The plans are exempt from disclosure to you under section 38 of the Freedom of Information Act

Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to:

(a)  endanger the physical or mental health of any individual, or

(b)  endanger the safety of any individual.

The plans are designed to ensure that the council can continue to protect the public and also to ensure that staff are prepared for worst case scenarios.  It is likely that some material in the plan would, if made public, make it harder for the council to do this, putting people at risk and it could also encourage panic or public concern which could encourage behaviours such as stockpiling of materials or cause people concern which could endanger their mental health.

In order to rely on this exemption, the Act requires that we demonstrate that the public interest in disclosing this information is outweighed by the prejudice in disclosing the information and conduct a balancing exercise of the competing public interests in disclosing or not disclosing. Details of this test can be seen below.

Public Interest Test:

The council have considered the public interest test in relation to section 38 in releasing the information in scope of your request. The outcome of this is below.

  • Public interest in disclosure:

  • It would inform the public of the arrangements in place to contain the virus.

  • Public interest to maintain the exemption:

  • Releasing the documents could compromise the safety of our residents and staff. The document contains locations of emergency shelters, as well as contact details for staff.

  • In light of the government advice being updated daily the Business Continuity plans are being updated and improved as required – therefore once released they could be quickly out of date.

Based on the above, it is the council’s view that there is a stronger public interest to maintain the use of the exemption for Section 38.

In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 this letter acts as a refusal notice with respect to your request.

If you are dissatisfied with the way in which the council have managed your FOI request you can pursue an Internal Review by contacting us using the above email address.  Your request will be considered by the Strategic Lead for Information Management who will update you with the outcome of the review. 

If you remain unhappy following the outcome of your Internal Review you may wish to refer your case to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), details of this organisation can be found at www.ico.org.uk . Please be advised that the ICO will not consider your case until they have confirmation that you have already been through the Internal Review stage with the council.

Request reference:
FOI 9893