Freedom of Information Request on Flockton Bypass

Following discussions at a recent Council meeting, Cllr. Richard Smith,  put in a Freedom of Information request, to try and get to the bottom of what actually has been discussed/asked for at various bodies, including the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

"I felt we needed some clarity, as different people were saying different things and the same people were saying different things at different times.

"I have copied below, exactly what I asked through the FOI and the response I received. Clearly this is not a satisfactory answer and I will try again, amending the request so that I may have more luck with this the next time. Sorry- it is a bit long winded…"

Richard Smith FOI:
At Full Council on 18 September 2019 Cllr Peter McBride stated that at least three attempts to obtain funding for a Flockton Bypass had been made since 2014. I would like to submit a freedom of information request to receive copies of all reports, emails and correspondence relating to Flockton Bypass, or a Flockton Relief Road, or other Flockton traffic issues from Councillor McBride, any other Cabinet Members, and any Officers both at Kirklees and at the Combined Authority, including a summary of Cllr McBride's interaction with KMC Officers, WYCA Officers, the people of Flockton or elected representatives of any neighbouring Local Authorities or Parish Councils from 2014 onwards, and prior to that date if any exist.

The response received from the IG team and KMC
The Council's response to your specific questions is set out below:

1. At Full Council on 18 September 2019 Cllr Peter McBride stated that at least three attempts to obtain funding for a Flockton Bypass had been made since 2014.

The note provided to Cllr Peter McBride in advance of full council states:

"Since then and as funding opportunities have arisen, a Flockton bypass scheme has been submitted for consideration"

In effect "bids" have not been submitted. The named scheme "Flockton bypass" has been submitted as part of a long list, either at a West Yorkshire or "Transport for the North" geographic levels for consideration as to which scheme (of potentially many) should be taken further and worked up into a bid.

2. I would like to submit a freedom of information request to receive copies of all reports, emails and correspondence relating to Flockton Bypass, or a Flockton Relief Road, or other Flockton traffic issues from Councillor McBride, any other Cabinet Members, and any Officers both at Kirklees and at the Combined Authority, including a summary of Cllr McBride's interaction with KMC Officers, WYCA Officers, the people of Flockton or elected representatives of any neighbouring Local Authorities or Parish Councils from 2014 onwards, and prior to that date if any exist.

The Council believes that to determine whether it holds any information falling within the scope of this part of your request would place unreasonable demands on its resources to locate, retrieve and extract the information requested. As such the Council is refusing to provide this information under Regulation 12(4)(b) "manifestly unreasonable" of the Environmental

Information Regulations 2004 (EIR)
Regulation 12(4)(b)states:

12.—(1) Subject to paragraphs (2), (3) and (9), a public authority may refuse to disclose environmental information requested if—

(a) an exception to disclosure applies under paragraphs (4) or (5); and

(b) in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exception outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

(2) A public authority shall apply a presumption in favour of disclosure.

(3) To the extent that the information requested includes personal data of which the applicant is not the data subject, the personal data shall not be disclosed otherwise than in accordance with regulation 13.

(4) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(a), a public authority may refuse to disclose information to the extent that—

(a) it does not hold that information when an applicant's request is received;

(b) the request for information is manifestly unreasonable;

(c) the request for information is formulated in too general a manner and the public authority has complied with regulation 9;

(d) the request relates to material which is still in the course of completion, to unfinished documents or to incomplete data; or

(e) the request involves the disclosure of internal communications.

The Regulations do not define a 'reasonable' amount of money or time that a public authority should spend on a request, or a linked series of requests from the same person or group – there is no legal equivalent to the 'appropriate limit' provided under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, however, the Council has had regard to the amount of time it would take to provide the information requested. The Council would need to ascertain whether or not we hold this information, across a number of departments, which hold their data in a mix of electronic and paper records.

Officers would then need to identify and collate this information.

The information the Council holds is very much a work in progress and is not in a format that can be easily provided in response to this request. One of the teams involved has determined that it would need to manually work through over 100 documents to determine what is relevant, and then collate the information required. They have estimated that each search would take in the region of 15 minutes, meaning it would take one person in excess of 25 hours.
In engaging this exception to the EIRs, the Council has a duty to apply the public interest test:

The Council acknowledges that there is a general public interest in openness and transparency. In the case of this particular request, there is also a public interest in a greater public awareness and understanding of matters affecting the environment and bringing to light information affecting public safety.

The Council believes that the public interest in withholding this information is that the time it would take in responding to the request would divert a disproportionate amount of the public authority's resources from its core functions, especially at a time where resources are reducing. There is a strong public interest in public authorities being able to carry out their wider obligations fully and effectively, so that the needs of the communities they serve are fulfilled. Dealing with manifestly unreasonable requests can place a strain on resources and get in the way of public authorities delivering mainstream services or answering other requests.

On balance, the Council believes that the public interest in maintaining the exception under 12(4)(b) outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information, and therefore, the extent to which resources would need to be diverted in order to comply with this request would be manifestly unreasonable and as a result your request in its current format will not be processed further.

You may wish to consider, in light of the information provided already, refining the scope of your request, although please be aware that the Council cannot guarantee at this stage that a refined request could be answered.