28 January 2016

The naughty London Borough of Waltham Forest

cute, unlike Waltham Forest council

Update 28 January 16.

Instead of sending me the FOI response Waltham Forest Council now expect Mr Mustard to go and fetch (like a dog, see above) his response CU127745 from a "MyAccount" that he doesn't have or want (Mr Mustard did look at setting one up but the council wanted his star sign, collar size and to know his favourite colour so he didn't complete the process) and they have clearly forgotten that they agreed to respond to him in writing i.e. by sending a letter. They could email it, that would be fine. They are back on the naughty step.

Councils everyhwere. Your duty is to send the response not to ask requestors to fetch it.

Update 11 January. Someone at Waltham Forest decided to accept Mr Mustard's request after all. Well done them. The council are now off the naughty step.

I acknowledge receipt of your request on 2 January 2016.

We are in the process of updating the procedures in regards to handling Freedom of Information requests which are not via our online portal.

I have logged your request under our reference number FOI 2016-0****.

In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, the Council has 20 working days in which to respond to your request.  Therefore, a written response will be sent to you on or by 29 January 2016.

Second update: The complaint is also being dealt with. We are cooking with gas now.

We acknowledge receipt of your complaint which will be considered under Stage 1 of the Council’s Corporate Complaints Procedure. This has been passed on to the appropriate Service for investigation and response.

The Council will respond to you in writing within 20 working days from the date of receipt, in accordance with our complaints procedure.

Original blog post

The morning started well and then Mr Mustard received the below email in response to a simple request he made on 2 January:

From: Wfdirect [mailto:wfdirect@walthamforest.gov.uk]
Sent: 05 January 2016 09:01
To: Mr Mustard
Subject: RE: FOI request

Dear Mr Mustard

Thank you for your email

Please note we do not accept Freedom of Information request via email.

As Waltham Forest Council are now going digital Freedom of Information and Complaints can be done via www.walthamforest.gov.uk

Yours sincerely,

Name Redacted by Mr Mustard
Customer Service Advisor
London Borough Of Waltham Forest

Steam started to come out of Mr Mustard's ears. The council must know the law, and expect you to follow parking law exactly, but think they are above it. That, or they don't know the law. Mr Mustard is unsure as to which is worse. He had seen reference on twitter to Waltham Forest refusing requests and he doesn't take no for an answer, when it should be yes. He emailed back:

Dear Sir/Madam

I have seen mention on twitter of the borough's wrongful refusal of perfectly valid FOI requests. I have looked at your title and decided that you are a generalist and not a specialist in this area and so my ire is not aimed at you personally. You probably don't know this but even a request on twitter could be valid so one by email certainly is. I have attached a copy of the ICO's comprehensive guidance on the subject of recognising valid requests. As it is long I have extracted the relevant part here:

My request fits with the above.

I understand why you try and straitjacket people into using (ghastly) webforms, it is because it is cheaper for you to process and administratively convenient. I find that it is quicker for me to use an email as I can automatically add my personal details, I can file the email within my own file structure (and I may not even get a copy of a webform that I complete) and can add a follow-up date. What the borough has forgotten is that it is there to serve the residents and/or other interested parties.

I have now found the relevant page on the council's website (you didn't even give me a link to the relevant page but only to the site itself thus taking up more of my time) and the page gives me no option but to apply for a 'My Account' which I have no wish to have. You cannot put such hurdles in the path of a FOI request. You also insist on being supplied with an email address and I doubt that fits with the requirements of the Equality Act as the elderly and disabled may not possess or easily have access to a computer or smartphone and may well prefer to write a letter.

You now have on your desk not only a valid FOI request on which the clock is already ticking but a complaint that you are ignoring the law. I have therefore copied in the council's monitoring officer with a request that she ensures that the borough follows the law in future.

All I require in response to my complaint is an apology for wasting my time & misleading me, and an assurance that no-one else will be mislead on this subject in the future & that requests by twitter, email, letter or other written forms will be accepted without demur.

Best regards

Mr Mustard

Mr Mustard will let you know what happens next. He is currently making a ncie cup of camomile tea and taking one of his calm tablets.

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