Council’s FoI refusal prompts WHT to take tough action

THE WHT has reported Welwyn Hatfield Council to the Information Commissioner after officers failed to release documents under the Freedom of Information Act, writes Kelly-Ann Kiernan.

This newspaper is asking for information about taxi drivers who come before a committee of councillors.

We have made it clear we are NOT asking for personal details of the drivers, but WHY they have been brought before the committee.

The group of five councillors meet each month to either review applications to become a taxi driver, or to revoke or suspend Hackney Carriage or private hire licences for disciplinary matters.

The council’s Hackney Carriage officer is given powers to issue licences so the mere fact individuals are being brought before the committee is, we believe, of interest to the public.

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The WHT asked for 1, the nature of the policy contraventions or offences 2, the Hackney Carriage officer’s recommendations to the committee and 3, the decision reached by the committee.

The council failed to answer the three individual questions and issued a blanket response.

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It included: “The council takes the view that it is appropriate in the circumstances to exempt that information from the reports which are made available to the public.

“The committee has to balance the needs of the public with the rights of the individual concerned.”

WHT editor Terry Mitchinson said: “The council’s response is unreasonable. We are not asking for individual’s details. The committee may be acting in the best interest of the public, but we have no way of knowing as all meetings are held in secret.

“Court cases are open to the public, but we aren’t even asking for access to the meetings, we just want to know why people are being suspended or banned from driving taxis.”

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