THE FIVE BREACHES OF THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT BY THE UNIVERSITY OF SALFORD
1) The public authority breached section 1(1)(b) of the Act by failing to make the requested information available to the complainant.
2) The public authority breached section 10(1) of the Act by failing to make the requested information available to the complainant within 20 working days.
3) The public authority breached section 17(1) by failing to issue a refusal notice within 20 working days of receiving the request.
4) The public authority breached section 17(1)(b) by failing to specify which specific sub-section of section 43 on which it was seeking to rely.
5) The public authority breached section 17(1)(c) by failing to explain why the exemption in section 43(2) applied.
Using the Freedom of Information Act, the Salford Star has been trying, since November 2009, to find out how much the University of Salford is paying Peel Holdings to lease its new building at MediaCityUK.
We believe that this is well within the public interest, particularly at a time when the University of Salford is making cuts, losing staff and increasing student tuition fees.
We wrote to the University in November 2009 asking for rental costs on its MediaCityUK site until 2020. The University wrote back a month later saying that the information was exempt from the Freedom of Information Act because it was already available from the Land Registry.
The Salford Star requested the University carry out an internal review as we couldn't afford the £24 fee to the Land Registry to find out. The review took until the end of the following May 2010, by which time the University had changed its response, saying that the information actually wasn't at the Land Registry but was still exempt from the Act under clauses around `commercial interests' and `confidentiality'. By this time, we'd already complained to the Information Commissioner.
In October 2010 the Information Commissioner wrote to the University requesting information. It took the University three months, until January 2011, to respond properly.
Having finally received the response, the Information Commissioner has ruled that the information the Salford Star asked for is not exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.
The 12 page letter received from the Commissioner by the Salford Star includes five breaches of the Freedom of Information Act by the University of Salford – and some harsh words of criticism…
• "The Commissioner has found the public authority's [ie the University's] response to his enquiries to be very unsatisfactory"
• "The public authority took well over five months to complete the review …The commissioner considers this a significant failure to conform to the Code of Practice"
Now, the University of Salford has 35 days, from 2nd March to provide us with the information…
The Information Commissioner has written to the University of Salford stating…
"Failure to comply with the steps described above may result in the Commissioner making written certification of this fact to the High Court (or the Court of Session in Scotland) pursuant to section 54 of the Act and may be dealt with as a contempt of court."
The University has the right to appeal.