Council’s ‘blatant breach’ of information request rules

Community campaigner Paul Kornycky. Pic Steve Robards SR152137 SUS-150915-131939001

Community campaigner Paul Kornycky. Pic Steve Robards SR152137 SUS-150915-131939001

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Questions have been asked over a ‘blatant breach’ of rules governing requests for information at Horsham District Council (HDC).

Rudgwick resident Paul Kornycky, a leading Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre campaigner, has been investigating the viability of past and future housing developments in the district by submitting Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to HDC.

Since he was ‘dissatisfied’ with the response to two of his FoI requests in August and September last year he asked for an internal review of both by the council.

But in what he called a ‘blatant breach of procedures’, he did not receive a response within the prescribed 40 working day period, and had to wait until the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) became involved to eventually receive the information he originally requested from HDC.

Speaking at a full council meeting late last month, he said: “These two requests were blatantly ignored and they gave the impression of there being deliberate non-determination.

“That is the issue. I have had no explanation for that.

“I have had no response to this particular point. This is the issue, that’s why I’m here tonight.”

Mr Kornycky asked why the breach had happened and what was doing to prevent a recurrence.

In response Jonathan Chowen (Con, Cowfold, Shermanbury and West Grinstead), HDC’s deputy leader, believed ‘passionately’ about the existence of the FoI Act, the authority did receive a ‘huge amount’ of such requests, which he felt ‘stops those really important issues coming through’.

He said: “I think members of the public and everybody should treat it carefully to a certain extent.”

He explained that the delay had been debated by HDC’s performance and finance working group the week before.

He added: “I feel I have answered the question. By posing this question and everybody hearing it we will be aware of this issue in the future and we will not have to hear it again.”

In his original question Mr Kornycky explained how as the 40 day deadline approached he sent reminders, called and left unanswered messages.

Only when the ICO wrote to the council in December did it reverse its position and provide all the information.

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