Friday, 2 April 2010

Need to Know.......

And the saga continues!

From: Peter Devlin
Sent: 30/03/2010 12:52
To: Steve Allison External; Alison Lilley External
Subject: Re: Access to Information

Hi Steve,

The 'need to know' is a common law principle, which establishes two main points;

(1) A Member is indeed entitled to access documents that are reasonably necessary to enable that Councillor to carry out their duties. However -

(2) This does not give a right to a 'roving commission' to examine documents. A 'mere curiosity or wish to see them is not sufficient' (various case law references).

I have covered the above in reports to CWG etc., and as the above applies the common law, the same has not been 'lifted' into Council constitutions, which generally follow the modular schemes under guidance issued in conjunction with the provisions of the Local Government Act, 2000. We (as a Council) have covered the same in the Member/Officer protocol, as indicated. Consequently, if a Member wants access to a particular report that is otherwise 'exempt/confidential', the above, even appreciating para 32 Part 4, comes into play.

Best Wishes,

-----Original Message-----
From: Steve Allison External
Sent: 30 March 2010 23:29
To: Peter Devlin; Alison Lilley External
Subject: Re: Access to Information


I am aware of Part 5 of the Constitution and I am sure you are equally aware of Part 4 of this document.

Could you please tell me where in Part 4 Paragraph 32 it requires me to establish a need to know in this case as the information I was seeking was witheld from the Public under Category 4 and hence I an ENTITLED to inspect this document.

Best regards

Steve Allison

From: Peter Devlin
Sent: 31/03/2010 12:04
To: Steve Allison External; Alison Lilley External
Subject: Re: Access to Information

Dear Stephen,

it has come to my attention your requests to Democratic Services for the provision of agendas, reports etc., in 'hard copy' format and your contentions in relation to any 'need to know' basis, for the release of 'exempt' or otherwise 'confidential' information.

The request for the provision of agendas etc, follows on from your FOIA request and the response provided by my colleague Mrs Martin, which was in essence, that such information is available and can therefore be readily accessed upon the Council's website. Clearly, and trust you will appreciate, individual officers should not be engaged in 'sifting out' what is exempt/confidential information and to notify you of the same. I am given to understand, that Democratic Services are to supply in 'hard copy' format agendas/reports, pursuant to your request. Perhaps this can be reviewed in due course, as to the level of resource expended, but more so, the overall benefit to yourself.

I have provided reports to the Constitution Working Group, as well as briefing/Guidance Notes, covering the 'need to know' situation, which you are hopefully conversant, although, this does not come across in your communication with colleagues in Democratic Services. Where a report is on 'pink papers' a Member who is not privy to that report, in that they are not a Member of that particular Committee/Sub Committee or whatever, will need to justify that they have a legitimate 'need to know' in relation to that item. I am charged with the role to consider such requests, which is covered in the 'Officer/Member' Protocol (Part 5 of the Council's Constitution refers).

I should point out that neither the writer or colleagues wish to constrain or in any way obstruct an Elected Member in discharging the duties of their position for the benefit of their constituents.

However, there are parameters which surround access to information,which I believe you are patently aware. My purpose in sending this e-mail (and I am at pains not to labour or lengthen discussions) is to bring to your attention my own concerns as to what appears to be the engagement of several Council officers in dealing with matters raised by yourself, which could possibly have avoided the circuitous route that appears to have been followed.

Best Wishes,


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