FOI request (FOI-70195544)
Requested Tue 13 March 2018
Responded Thu 15 March 2018
I write to request information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and, where applicable, under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. I am making this request on behalf of the charity Shelter.
I believe that the information requested does not fall under any of the exemptions set out in the Act. I therefore hope the information can be provided within the 20 days stipulated in the Act.
If no exemptions apply, there is no reason to consider public interest arguments for or against publication of the information requested. I have, in any case, provided some general and specific arguments as to why it would be in the public interest to release the information requested.
The Requested Information
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has recently established a stream of work called the Building Safety Programme .
On 29 September 2017, the Building Safety Programme published updated advice relating to residential buildings over 18 metres which have been confirmed to have Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding, in conjunction with other elements of the cladding system, that does not meet the relevant requirements of the Building Regulations guidance. This advice recommends that owners of these buildings take interim fire safety measures until all remedial works have been completed and buildings are made safe .
There are many kinds of interim fire safety measures. They include, but are not limited to, checking that a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment has been carried out within the last 12 months and the recommendations have been implemented, ensuring that the emergency fire procedure notices are updated, and having a Waking Watch - or fire wardens - on a 24/7 basis.
I would like to find out how much councils are having to spend on these interim measures.
1. I would like to request:The total amount spent since June 2017 by the council on interim fire safety measures in high-rise residential buildings over 18 metres that are owned by the council, and have been confirmed to have Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding, in conjunction with other elements of the cladding system that do not meet the relevant requirements of the Building Regulations guidance (abbreviated below as 'these buildings')
2. The total amount spent on interim fire safety measures for these buildings in the most recent month where data is available
If the council does not hold the specific information described at Question 1 or 2, I respectfully request that the council provides any information it does hold from which these figures may be calculated. This could include any one database, spreadsheet or word document holding data relating to the interim fire safety measures put in place on affected residential buildings that the council owns, and the amount spent on interim fire safety measures since June 2017. Please share this excluding any information which could be considered personal information under the Data Protection Act.
I understand that one exemption that may apply to this request is that described at Section 12(1) - 12(4) of the Freedom of Information Act, where "the authority estimates that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the appropriate limit". If the council does refuse the request by relying on Section 12, I would respectfully ask that it comply with the Information Commissioner's advice and confirm whether or not this information is held by the council.
Further, I am available to help and assist the council, and would be happy to refine the request, in order to reduce the time needed to provide the information requested. I would respectfully ask that the council considers its duty "to provide advice and assistance" as set out at Section 16 of the Act. The Information Commissioner states in advice that "a public authority should consider in these circumstances how it can provide advice and assistance to help an applicant narrow, reform or refocus their request."
I do not believe that any of the Freedom of Information Act exemptions should apply to the information requested. However, in the case that the council argues otherwise, here are some arguments as to why it would be in the public interest - and indeed the interests of the council and the people it serves - to release the information I have requested.
- There is a bias toward disclosure in the Freedom of Information Act itself, as there is a general public interest in transparency in public affairs and in how money raised through taxation is managed and spent.
- There is a legitimate aim in greater transparency in the inner workings and processes of the management of council properties.
- Publication serves a strong public interest in ensuring that council residents are safe in their homes.
- The publication of the information requested serves the interests of the council, council tenants and leaseholders themselves as it will demonstrate the financial pressure placed on local councils. We are collating this information so that we can evidence the costs of interim measures and can communicate to central government the importance of greater clarity around remedial works. This will help to ensure that remedial works are carried out as expediently as possible.
Hastings Borough Council does not own any social housing, this was transferred to 1066 Housing Association (now Optivo) in 1996 as part of Large Scale Voluntary Transfer (LSVT) therefore no money has been spent.
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