Information

The amounts drivers, fleets and insurers are charged appears by Public Authority contractors, is receiving increased attention.  You may find the following of interest:

Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) 2000

When seeking information from Highways England (HE) or a Public Authority the following should be borne in mind:

  1. Repairs to our roads and ‘street furniture’ are seldom undertaken by the Authority but more usually completed by a contractor.
  2. Once a repair is considered or completed, what happens next is generally dictated by the value of the repair – a calculation that is in the hands of the contractor.
  3. The contractor will likely have a claim ‘threshold’, for example, £10,000:
    1. if the repair is above the threshold, the contractor presents their invoice for payment by the Authority.
    2. if the repair is below the threshold, the contractor cannot obtain payment form the Authority
  4. Whoever now has incurred the cost (Authority or contractor)  will try to obtain payment of the invoice from the ‘at fault’ party.

Q; How does this affect information held by the Authority?

A: The Authority may well claim that for below-threshold matters, they hold no information, that the contractor is responsible for the claim and therefore all information is held by the contractor. But where the data is held by a contractor:

  • Is this accurate or does the Authority hold data?
  • What does the contract say about FoIA requests?
  • Will the contractor cite the obvious exemption; that as a private company they are not subject to the FoIA?

For example, enquiries of Midland Expressway Limited, the company managing the M6 toll road result in the following response:

“As a private company Midland Expressway Limited is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 as the Act only covers public authorities.”

Is it reasonable that the public are kept from access to information, that our Authorities can avoid FoIA requirements, simply by outsourcing their responsibilities to companies, that ‘transparency’ is removed? It appears the effectiveness of the FoIA has been diluted.  This concern has been expressed by others:

Contracting out public services

transparency-in-outsourcing-roadmap

To request information from Highways England (HE), Transport for London (TfL) of a local authority, you may wish to view previous requests at:

WDTK – You have the right to request information from any publicly-funded body, and get answers. WhatDoTheyKnow helps you make a Freedom of Information request. It also publishes all requests online.

Or you may wish to make a direct approach:

Highways England –   mailto: FOIAdvice@highwaysengland.co.uk

TFL – mailto: FoI@tfl.gov.uk

Local Authorites – visit the Authorities web site and search ‘Freedom of Information’


Highways England

Obtaining information from HE should be relatively straightforward; as a Public Authority (PA) they are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000. However, it appears an enquirer could be:

  • subject to semantics
  • advised information does not exist
  • informed data has been destroyed
  • The ‘commercially sensitive’ exemption appears to be freely cited by HE – for more information about ‘Commercially Sensitive’, the arguments against, please click here.
  • threatened with ‘vexatious’ i.e. advised that the application for information is exempt from action because the request itself (not the individual who submitted it) is so patently unreasonable or objectionable that it will obviously be vexatious – likely to cause a disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress.  More about ‘vexatious requests’ can be found here: dealing-with-vexatious-requests
  • obstructed and frustrated – for example, requests are delayed until the 11th hour at which time the Authroity may, as an example, claim they need more time, clarification or the request exceeds the £450 limit that provision of the information would cost them.

Transport for London

Requests made of TfL have been regularly delayed.