Mr Y and Cork County Council

CourtInformation Commission
JudgeSenior Investigator
Judgment Date01 April 2022
Case OutcomeThe Senior Investigator varied the decision of the Council.
RespondentCork County Council
Record NumberOIC-109746-R5F4M4
Whether Cork County Council was justified in refusing under section 15(1)(a) of the FOI Act, the applicant’s request for access to records concerning the housing budget and assessment for the Mitchelstown area on the basis that the record concerned does not exist or cannot be found after all reasonable steps to ascertain its whereabouts have been taken

1 April 2022

Background

In a request dated 11 January 2021, the applicant submitted a request for records to Cork County Council and sought the following:

  1. A copy of the housing policy and social housing allocation criteria, categories and scoring system used in assessing housing need and placement on the list(s) during the last five years and dates of application of same
  2. A copy of any housing list in which the applicant and/or his family were included in the last five years delineated by number/order, criterion, score and any other relevant detail.
  3. The number of traveller families on the housing list in each housing area during the last five years.
  4. The corresponding number of non-traveller families in each housing area during the last five years.
  5. The number of traveller families from the housing list in each housing area during the last five years.
  6. The number of non-traveller families housed from the housing list in each housing area in the last five years.
  7. The budget allocation for traveller accommodation in each housing area during the last five years.
  8. The budget used and budget unused/surplus for traveller accommodation in each housing area during the last five years.
  9. A copy of Cork County Council’s Travellers Plan and Traveller Housing Plan in each housing area during the last five years as passed/adopted.

In a decision dated 11 February 2021, the Council part granted the applicant’s request, releasing records pertaining to items 1, 5, 6 and 9 of the request. It refused access to records regarding items 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8 of the applicant’s request citing section 15(1)(a) of the Act, as its basis for refusal, stating “that the records concerned could not be found after all reasonable steps to ascertain their whereabouts had been taken.” The applicant submitted a request for internal review, and a final decision on the matter issued on 22 March 2021. The Council’s internal review decision varied the original decision and released countywide figures for item 7 of the request. In respect of item 2, the Council stated that it does not have such a record and as such upheld the original decision. In relation to items 3, 4 and 8, the Council clarified it is not in possession of any record from which such figures could be extrapolated, and so the original decision was upheld. On 30 June 2020, the applicant applied to this Office for a review of the Council’s decision.

During the course of the review, the Investigator provided the applicant with details of the Council’s submissions wherein it described the searches undertaken to locate relevant records and invited him to make submissions in response to those searches. Submissions were received from the applicant on 1 December 2021.

I have now completed my review in accordance with section 22(2) of the FOI Act. In carrying out my review, I have had regard to the submissions made by the relevant parties, the correspondence between the applicant and the Council, and the correspondence between both parties and this office. I have also examined the records at issue/had regard to the contents of the records concerned. I have decided to conclude this review by way of a formal, binding decision.

Scope of Review

In his application for review of the Council’s decision, the applicant asked this Office to look at:

  1. The records/information to which the internal reviewer has stated that section 15(1)(a) applies.
  2. Records to which full release was purported but where the applicant believes full release has not occurred.
  3. Instances where the Internal Reviewer had not released records requested on the basis that the category requested does not correspond exactly with categories held, on the basis of a narrow view being taken of the requested records.
  4. Those records/ information where the Internal Reviewer had not released the records requested on the basis that the length of time to which the FOI request is made does not correspond with the category of records held.

Section 15(1)(a) of the FOI Act provides for the refusal of a request where the records sought do not exist or cannot be found. Accordingly, this review is concerned solely with the question of whether the Council was justified in...

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