FOI request (FOI218677)
Council Housing and Evictions
Requested Wed 26 July 2017
Responded Wed 26 July 2017
I am requesting information relating to the financial year from 01 April 2015 to 31 March 2016, or the equivalent financial year for the council ("the year"). I am aware that this will mean that the data collected for each question may not be directly comparable.
I believe that the information requested does not fall under any of the exemptions set out in the Act. We have conducted a pilot study where requests were made to more than 120 councils. None of these councils invoked any exemptions and 90 percent responded by providing all the information held before or soon after the 20 working days stipulated in the Act. I would be very grateful if the information can be provided within 20 working days.
I conducted this pilot in part to ensure that the request now being made did not inconvenience the council any more than was absolutely necessary. We are extremely grateful for the time and effort spent on dealing with this request.The Requested Information:
Choice Based Lettings:
- The total number of people added to the local authority's housing waiting list, or otherwise made eligible to bid for social housing from 01 April 2015 to 31 March 2016
- The total number of lettings made through a choice based lettings or equivalent scheme during the year from 01 April 2015 to 31 March 2016.
- The total amount spent on the Choice Based Lettings programme or equivalent scheme during the year from 01 April 2015 to 31 March 2016 by the local authority. This should where possible include all costs.
For example, if the authority pays for software I would like this to be included in the calculation. If the authority pays for software that is used for other purposes, please provide the full cost of the software and the other purposes it is used for so I can work out whether or not we will factor in this cost.
- The total amount spent (including staff costs) on any other processes involved in administering applications to join the housing waiting list, or otherwise to apply to be made eligible to bid for social housing from 01 April 2015 to 31 March 2016
- The total number of cases worked on by the council's environmental health team during the year.
- The total number of cases worked on by the council's environmental health team related to all rented residential housing (including all types of rented property including homes owned by the council, a registered provider or a private landlord) during the year.
- The total number of staff hours spent on all cases related to all rented residential housing.
- The cost (including salaries and administration) to the council of work done on cases related to all rented residential housing.
For the sake of clarification, I would like to add the following points:
- We do not request information relation to queries covered by the Environmental Health team which do not relate to housing, for example general queries relating to noise and pollution.
- If the local authority does not have an Environmental Health team, but has a Public Protection Team or equivalent (providing equivalent services) can I please have the relevant information relating to this team instead.
- I do not need a breakdown of these numbers by tenure types. Instead we are requesting a figure for costs relating to all types of rented housing.
If the council does not hold or is unable to provide this specific information, I request that the council provides instead information it does hold from which this figure may be calculated. If the council does hold and is able to publish the information at Questions 1 to 4 above I do not require the information described at 1 to 3 below and I respectfully ask that this is not considered when assessing the amount of time needed to respond to this request in the first instance. In particular, I request:
- The total budget of the environmental health team including staff costs and administration during the year.
- An estimate of how much of the environmental health team's time is spent on housing related issues.
- Whichever is easiest to provide, from:
A: The database or spreadsheet recording the cases worked on by environmental health officers during the year, the staff time given to them and the details of the cases. Please provide this excluding any information which would be considered personal information under the Data Protection Act.
B: The database or spreadsheet recording the cases opened by environmental health officers during the year, the staff time given to them and the details of the cases. Please provide this excluding any information which would be considered personal information under the Data Protection Act.Exemptions:
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 the information is held by the Council.Section 16:
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 consider its duty "to provide advice and assistance" as set out at Section 16 of the Act. The Information Commissioner states in advice that the "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…"Section 21:
If this information described in Question 1 and Question 2 of this request is already publicly available and therefore exempt under Section 21 of the Act, I respectfully request that the Council inform me to where specifically it can be found.Public Interest:
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 I now present some arguments as to why it would be in the public interest - and indeed in 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 clear public interest in the efficient administration of public money and resources.
- There is a particular public interest in the accountability and transparency of the decision-making process of a public authority, including the provision of reasons for those decisions.
- There is a legitimate aim in greater transparency in the inner workings and process of the management of council properties.
- Publishing the requested information will enable greater scrutiny of the allocation of budget to the maintenance and upkeep of social housing.
- Considering the crisis facing the provision of public housing, it is vitally important that the public are reassured by the process of administering the remaining housing stock.
- The publication of the information requested serves the interest of council tenants themselves in achieving greater transparency and comfort in the workings of their own housing situation.
- Publication serves a strong public interest in high quality and safe housing stock.
- Publication will enable better provision of information to those using the choice-based lettings system, waiting for council housing, or those that are evicted or in rent arrears.
- Publication will enable Shelter and other charities in this sector to target resources at areas where people are in need
- Shelter has requested this information to support its work in developing a clear understanding of the public benefit of its own work, including a reduction in costs falling to local and national government. The publication of this information will allow Shelter to focus its resources more effectively. This is part of an
internal exercise to build understanding and support services. The charity will use the data to develop services and understand where they can help service users further. For example, Shelter provides support and advice to tenants on how to maintain their own properties. This reduces the risk of further damage to properties, which would have to be repaired at the expense of the local authority. Therefore, publication of the information requested will have a direct benefit for council tenants, local authorities and the taxpayer. Shelter does not intend to use the information provided as part of its communications or campaigns work.
This information is heldChoice Based LettingsQ1 - 822 Q2 - 415 Q3 & Q4 - £30,242.39 Environmental Health Q1 - In 2015/16 total housing standards complaints received - 639 Q2 - As 1. Q3 - Hours are not recorded. Q4 - £565,150
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