Towards the end of May this year, someone called Dutch politely requested under the Freedom of Information Act that Salford Council `supply the number of liability orders for non-payment of Council Tax where the outstanding balance was less than £10'.
By 24th June they still hadn't heard back and contacted the Council again saying it was in breach of the Act, which states information has to be released within 20 working days. On the 20th July the Council finally responded saying that the Council `need not comply with the request' because…
"it would take in excess of 18 hours to establish whether or not any such information is held. In excess of 1000 records @ 10 minutes per record, would need to be interrogated, in order to answer your question…"
Therefore, "under Section 12 of Freedom of Information Act 2000", etc etc …you can get lost.
Dutch wrote back the same day… "How is it that all other councils that have been asked this question have been able to answer quickly (i.e. within the time scale mandated by the FoI Act) and with answers that are acceptable?" adding "I formally request an internal review of the request as it appears the costing issues are a smoke screen to cover an embarrassing secret…"
And that internal review is still going on at the moment. Salford Council has a strange attitude towards, some might say, its vicious collection of Council Tax. Last year, Salford Star was appalled to hear how the Council was taking legal action against residents for the whole year's tax after the first instalment of the year was missed.
We asked under the Act how many people had been threatened with legal action after missing just one instalment in the first month of the tax year, and how many people Salford Council had actually taken to court for the full amount of the tax after only a couple of months of the year.
Even though we weren't asking for any personal data, information was withheld "in accordance with Section 44(1)(a) of The Freedom of Information Act 2000 Act" which states that the Council can withhold information under the Local Government Finance Act 1992…And then came a torrent of gobbledygook…
"The Local Government Finance Act 1992, is 'An Act to provide for certain local authorities to levy and collect a new tax, to be called council tax….'
Schedule 2 of this Act states that the Secretary of State may make regulations to include the provision, that a local authority may supply non personal council tax information to a person requesting it. These regulations however, have not been introduced by the English Parliament. Without these regulations, there is no provision for a local authority to supply such information. Section 44, of The Freedom of Information Act 2000, states that information is exempt from disclosure, if it is prohibited by or under enactment. In relation to the information you request, this exemption applies as the necessary regulations under The Local Government Finance Act 1992, have not been introduced. Section 44, is an absolute exemption and therefore does not require the application of the public interest test…"
You what? Obviously just another "smoke screen to cover an embarrassing