Council CSE information request complaint 'now closed'
Telford and Wrekin Council have “complied fully” with a request from the data ombudsman, after receiving a warning over its redacted reply to an information request.
The borough’s Freedom of Information team received a request for emails sent and received by council officers about child sexual exploitation during one week of last year.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham ruled the council was right to withhold some messages, which included personal information, but said its rationale for not disclosing two was unjustified, and gave the council 35 days to release them or provide new reasons for keeping them back.
A spokesman for Telford and Wrekin Council would not say which option they chose, but said “the matter is now closed”.
Last March, the council’s information governance department received a request for copies of CSE-related emails to or from two of its employees over a five-day period.
Neither the requester, nor the individuals named in the request, were identified by the Information Commissioner’s Office in their decision notice.
The council responded in May, providing some, but not all, of the requested emails.
The ICO’s decision notice said some were withheld under Section 40 of the 2000 Freedom of Information Act, which covers personal information, while Section 36, “prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs”, was used for others.
Of six messages ruled to be within the scope of the original request, the ICO said the council’s Section 36 argument was valid for four of them.
“The welfare of CSE victims outweighs the public interest in premature disclosure of the withheld information, particularly given that investigations were ongoing at the time of the request,” the report added.
The decision note said Ms Denham did not consider the remaining emails to be covered by the public interest argument “because they relate to administration around meetings, discussions or support”.
It added: “The council is, therefore, required to disclose this information or issue a refusal notice which does not rely on Section 36.”
The decision notice was published on January 23 and gave the council 28 days to appeal or a 35-day deadline to disclose or revise its refusal rationale.
The deadlines passed on February 20 and 27 respectively.
A spokesman for Telford and Wrekin Council said: “The council has complied fully with the Information Commissioner’s decision and the matter is now closed. We do not intend to appeal.”
An ICO spokeswoman said the council “appear to have complied”, meaning the council will provide the information originally requested or outline its new rationale to the original requester.
“If the requester didn’t get the required information they can come back to us,” she added.
Story by Local Democracy Reporter Alex Moore
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