The Freedom of Information Act (FOI) and the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) provides the public with the right of access to information held by Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (BCCG).
There is a legal requirement under Regulation 11 of the EIR for BCCG to have an internal review procedure in place for dealing with complaints made in relation to the handling of requests for information. The Code of Practice under section 45 of the FOI Act; in addition with guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office also recommends that it is good practice for BCCG to also have a review process for FOI requests. In this context the terms “complaints” and “internal review” are to be treated as one and the same.
BCCG encourages informal resolutions in an attempt to clarify outstanding points or resolve any misunderstandings at an early stage. Nonetheless, if you are not satisfied with the outcome of your request or if you are not happy with the way your request has been handled, under either the FOI or EIR; you can make a complaint to BCCG and we will then conduct an internal review.
All internal reviews will be dealt with in a fair and impartial manner and where possible will be conducted by someone who did not deal with the request, and preferably by a more senior member of staff; based on all available evidence supplied to them. BCCG aims to handle all internal reviews within 20 – 40 working days from the date the complaint is received but there may be occasions, depending on the circumstances, when it will take longer. If at any time it becomes apparent that this deadline cannot be met, the applicant (requestor) will be informed and given an explanation for the delay as directed under guidance issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
Please note that abuse of the internal review process, such as repeated requests for reviews following every request made, may be treated as vexatious and refused.
Grounds for an Internal Review
A request for a review may involve a:
If you would like to request an internal review, please either email or write to us at the address below:
Email to: email@example.com
Complaints and FOI Team
Bedfordshire MK45 4HR
A number of outcomes in relation to the internal review are possible, including:
If you wish to exercise your right to an internal review you should contact us within two months of the date of our response letter.
Where the original decision is reversed and the information is deemed suitable for release, the applicant will be informed immediately, and the information should be sent out within 14 working days, where this is not possible a time for disclosure will be stated in the internal review decision letter.
If the original decision is upheld and BCCG still feels the information is exempt from release, the applicant will be informed of the decision of the review, the reasoning behind it and advised of their right to appeal to the ICO; who regulate the FOI Act, if they are dissatisfied with our final decision.
The Information Commissioner’s Office can be contacted as follows:
The Information Commissioner,
Telephone: 0303 123 1113
Role of the Information Commissioner’ Office (ICO)
The ICO have a duty to investigate complaints from members of the public who believe an authority has failed to handle or respond to a request for information correctly.
After an initial assessment of the complaint the Information Commissioner may attempt to settle the matter informally by contacting both parties to provide his views on how the dispute can be resolved without going through the full appeal process. The ICO recognises that it is important for the complainant to use the BCCG’s internal review process in the first instance as many complaints can be satisfactorily resolved without the necessity of referral to the ICO.
If the Information Commissioner elects to undertake a full investigation he can decide either that BCCG has complied with the FOI Act or that further action is necessary to comply. If the Information Commissioner upholds a complaint and decides that the BCCG must disclose information a Decision Notice will be issued and served on the complainant and the BCCG. This will specify the information that must be disclosed and the time period for doing so.
If we receive a Decision Notice that over-rules previous action taken by us i.e. (to withhold information); we may either comply or we can appeal to the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights).