Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 20 Mar 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms X’s complaint about the Council’s response to her request for information. This is because the Information Commissioner’s Office is better placed to deal with her complaint.
- Ms X complains about the Council’s response to her request for information made via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. Ms X complains the information she has been given is inconsistent. She is also unhappy the Council does not publish FOI requests and responses on its website.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe there is another body better placed to consider this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
- We normally expect someone to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) if they have a complaint about data protection, including access to information. However, we may decide to investigate if we think there are good reasons. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered Ms X’s complaint to the Ombudsman and the information she provided. I also gave Ms X the opportunity to comment on a draft statement before reaching a final decision on her complaint.
What I found
- Ms X is unhappy with the way the Council has responded to an FOI request about its legal services department. Ms X says the information is inconsistent. Ms X is also unhappy the Council does not publish all the FOI requests it receives and the answers it supplies.
- At the heart of Ms X’s complaint is access to information, and the accuracy of information held and supplied by the Council. The ICO is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights. It promotes openness by public bodies and protects the privacy of individuals. It deals with complaints about public authorities’ failures to comply with data protection legislation. This includes a failure to disclose information somebody is entitled to and complaints about the accuracy of FOI responses.
- There is no charge for making a complaint to the ICO, and its complaints procedure is relatively easy to use. Where someone has a complaint about access to information, or the accuracy of information held by a council, the Ombudsman usually expects them to bring the matter to the attention of the ICO. This is because the ICO is in a better position than the Ombudsman to consider such complaints. Ms X should therefore approach the ICO about her concerns.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms X’s complaint. This is because the Information Commissioner’s Office is better placed to deal with her complaint.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman