Communications between Managing Director of Surface Transport and UK bus manufacturers
Request ID: FOI-2189-2021
Date published: 25 February 2021
Can I request to see communications between Managing Director of Surface Transport Leon Daniels and British bus manufacturers Alexander Dennis & Wrightbus from early 2014 to late 2017.
The timeframe for my request starts from 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2017.
Our Ref: FOI-2189-2021
Thank you for your request asking for correspondence between the Managing Director of Surface Transport and UK bus manufacturers.
Your request has been considered in accordance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act and our information access policy. I can confirm that we do hold the information you have requested.
However, we are refusing your request under section 14(1) of the Act, which provides an exemption to the disclosure of information where a request is considered to be ‘vexatious’. In reaching this conclusion we have drawn on guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) that can be found on its website here: https://ico.org.uk/media/1198/dealing-with-vexatious-requests.pdf.
You will note that this guidance includes the following advice to public authorities:
“Section 14(1) may be used in a variety of circumstances where a request, or its impact on a public authority, cannot be justified. Whilst public authorities should think carefully before refusing a request as vexatious they should not regard section 14(1) as something which is only to be applied in the most extreme circumstances”;
“Sometimes a request may be so patently unreasonable or objectionable that it will obviously be vexatious….In cases where the issue is not clear-cut, the key question to ask is whether the request is likely to cause a disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress…This will usually be a matter of objectively judging the evidence of the impact on the authority and weighing this against any evidence about the purpose and value of the request”;
“The public authority may take into account the context and history of the request, where this is relevant”;
“The information Commissioner recognises that dealing with unreasonable requests can place a strain on resources and get in the way of delivering mainstream services or answering legitimate requests.”
“Section 14(1) is designed to protect public authorities by allowing them to refuse any request which have the potential to cause a disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irriation or distress”.
“…the concepts of ‘proportionality’ and ‘justification’ are central to any consideration of whether a request is vexatious”;
The guidance includes some specific indicators to help public authorities judge whether or not a case should be considered vexatious. This includes the following:
“Burden on the authority: the effort required to meet the request will be so grossly oppressive in terms of the strain on time and resources, that the authority cannot reasonably be expected to comply, no matter how legitimate the subject matter or valid the intentions of the requester”;
“Frequent or overlapping requests: the requester submits frequent correspondence about the same issue or sends in new requests before the public authority has had an opportunity to address their earlier enquiries”.
“Disproportionate effort: the matter being pursued by the requester is relatively trivial and the authority would have to extend a disproportionate amount of resources in order to meet the request.”
The ICO’s guidance states that one of the indicators of a request which may fall under section 14(1) is that it “appears to be part of a completely random approach, lacks any clear focus, or seems to have been solely designed for the purpose of ‘fishing’ for information without any idea of what might be revealed.”
The ICO guidance provides the following examples of a ‘fishing expedition’ request which may fall under section 14(1) if it:
- Imposes a burden by obliging the authority to sift through a substantial volume of information to isolate and extract the relevant details;
- Encompasses information which is only of limited value because of the wide scope of the request;
- Creates a burden by requiring the authority to spend a considerable amount of time considering any exemptions and redactions.
Our view is that all three of these examples apply in this instance.
We consider that providing the requested information would place an unreasonable burden on us as it would be necessary to review all of the requested information in significant detail to ascertain whether an exemption might apply to any of the information contained within the correspondence. Given the volume of information caught by your non-specific request, the process of reviewing and redacting the information would be disproportionate to the benefit of providing it. Therefore, due to the wide and unfocused scope of your request, we are refusing it under section 14 (1) of the FOI Act.
Our principal duty is to provide an effective transport service for London and we consider that answering this request would represent a disproportionate effort. It would be a significant distraction from our work managing the TfL network, requiring re-allocation of already limited resources and placing an unacceptable burden on a small number of personnel. We do wish to clarify that whilst we consider that your request falls under section 14(1) of the FOI Act, this does not reflect a conclusion that it has been your intention to deliberately place an undue burden on our resources.
If you would like to re-submit a more focused, specific request then we will, of course, consider it. For example, a request on a particular, specific, subject or issue is less likely to raise concerns about the disproportionate effort required to answer it.
If you are considering submitting a further FOI request please think carefully about whether the request is essential at this current time, as answering FOI requests will require the use of limited resources and the attention of staff who could be supporting other essential activity. Where requests are made, please note that our response time may be impacted by the current situation.
Please see the attached information sheet for details of your right to appeal.
Senior FOI Case Officer
FOI Case Management Team
Transport for London
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