Brentwood Borough Council

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Brentwood Borough Council

FOI 3030

Councillor Enquiries

Request

Could you please provide a breakdown of the casework / enquiries logged by each Brentwood Borough Councillor over the past year?
- How many cases / enquiries were logged by each Councillor?
- What was the nature of these enquiries by Councillor?

Response

I can confirm that we have part of the above information requested in electronic format, which details (amongst other things), the date the case was logged, the Councillor who made the request, the department dealing with the request and the call problem.

To provide details of the nature of the enquiry would require some time reading the call problem which often contains lengthy correspondence with third parties.
From our preliminary assessment therefore, we estimate that for the Council to comply with the second part of your request would exceed the appropriate costs limit pursuant to section 12 of the Freedom of information Act 2000.

Section 12 FOIA states:

12 Exemption where cost of compliance exceeds appropriate limit.
E+W+S+N.I.
(1) Section 1(1) does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the appropriate limit.

(2) Subsection (1) does not exempt the public authority from its obligation to comply with paragraph (a) of section 1(1) unless the estimated cost of complying with that paragraph alone would exceed the appropriate limit.

(3) In subsections (1) and (2) “the appropriate limit” means such amount as may be prescribed, and different amounts may be prescribed in relation to different cases.

(4) The Secretary of State may by regulations provide that, in such circumstances as may be prescribed, where two or more requests for information are made to a public authority—

(a) by one person, or

(b) by different persons who appear to the public authority to be acting in concert or in pursuance of a campaign, the estimated cost of complying with any of the requests is to be taken to be the estimated total cost of complying with all of them.

(5) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for the purposes of this section as to the costs to be estimated and as to the manner in which they are to be estimated.

In respect of freedom of information enquiries, the ‘Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 (the regulations) sets an appropriate limit for public authorities such as local Councils whereby if the cost of complying with a relevant request exceeds £450, the authority is entitled to take into account the estimated cost of determining whether it holds the information sought, locating the information or a document which may contain the information and extracting the information from a document containing it.

The regulations prescribe the extent to which any costs that a public authority takes into account are attributable to the time which persons undertaking any of the activities mentioned above on behalf of the authority are expected to spend on those activities and estimates those costs to be at a rate of £25 per person per hour.

Based on the knowledge that there were 1107 Members’ requests in the year 25.1.11 to 24.1.12 and that it would take an average of two minutes to extract the information required to provide the nature of each case, it would take approximately 36.9 hours to complete the second part of task.

At £25 per hour as per the regulations, this will be an estimated cost of £922.50.

Where a public authority is charging a fee in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 the applicant has a maximum of 3 months to pay from the date of this letter. The public authority is not required to comply with the request until such times as it is satisfied that the fee has been paid. I would therefore be grateful if you would advise me accordingly as to whether you wish to proceed with your enquiry and enclose payment by return if you do. I remind you once again that you have 3 months from the date of this email should you wish to do so.

Rather than entirely refusing your request at this stage however, I would like to explore with you how Brentwood Borough Council may best assist you to.

As mentioned above, we do hold the information you requested in the first part of your Freedom of Information request, namely, the number of requests logged by each Councillor. This, combined with the department that dealt with the case, would provide you with the general area of the cases members of the Council raise.

I attach an Excel spreadsheet that details the information in this way and in any event.

In addition to the breakdown of casework we have supplied, we would like to advise you that every borough councillor in Brentwood plays a slightly different role in the make up of the Council.

Dealing with residents’ casework is just one part, but plays a big role and is used to champion causes in the ward a councillor represents. This can vary greatly and some queries can be answered simply and quickly, whilst others require a great deal of work.