19 March 2009

FoI - How to respond with triage

I have been emailing (invoking the Freedom of Information Act) a few councils of late and asking them for examples that might be posted here - I have had some very useful responses (thanks) - which I am beginning to upload. Some councils have responded with an acknowledging email informing me of the Freedom of Information guidelines around availble information, the 20 working day rule and so forth. I await their answers in due course.

Others have replied saying that my request falls outside FoI because it is not specific enough. I have then responded with some further options including some more specific requests.

But a couple of people have notably come back to me and said - do you really wish to invoke FoI - is there some other way this can be done? In effect, these people are operating what I would call a triage system. 

As one person put it to me "You asked for one idea under FOI. The one I would relay is that on receipt of an FOI enquiry I try to speak to the person making the FOI request to ascertain why they have made the request under FOI. In many cases they do not realise they are serving legal notice on the Council and that as many FOI contacts are seeking to win business it is not generally a good idea to use such methods as a means of introduction.  Generally they tend to withdraw the request after a friendly chat and after I verbally give them what they require. This has saved myself a lot of time and I think helped the other parties. Using FOI can get peoples 'back up' especially when they would freely volunteer the information"

I post this here to acknowledge this approach - and note the elegant way in which this  triage idea can save a lot of time and energy.

I wonder how many other examples there are out there that use the triage idea...?

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