CITY COUNCIL ORDERED TO RELEASE RESIDENTS’ RESPONSES
Leeds City Council has been ordered by the Information Commissioner to release details of local people’s responses to a questionnaire even though the consultation was carried out for the authority by a research company. The council has 35 days to comply with the ruling, though it can appeal against it.
In response to an initial request for copies of the completed questionnaires, the council refused on the grounds that the information was personal and that residents who had completed the questionnaires had done so in confidence. Later the authority claimed it did not hold copies of the completed questionnaires as it had only commissioned the company, Swift Research Ltd., to produce a final report based on the results.
Now the Commissioner, Richard Thomas, has ruled that for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act, information is deemed to be held by a public authority if it is held by another person or organisation on behalf of that authority. Having looked into all aspects of the request for the information, he has found that the survey responses were held on behalf of the city council by Swift Research.
The Commissioner was satisfied, however, that the names and addresses of respondents to the questionnaire should not be disclosed so his decision requires the council to supply the complainant with the responses in a way that will protect the identity of individual respondents.