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In November 2017 DEFRA Minister, Therese Coffey, claimed at a debate on rural fly-tipping that the Environment Agency had dealt with more than 200 cases in the previous year.  The EA deal with cases of large-scale tipping (more than 20 tonnes) leaving the rest to local authorities.

My analysis of the EAs prosecution database however showed that in 2017 the EA only prosecuted at most 5 people for fly-tipping.  DEFRA have steadfastly refused to comment on my analysis by the way.

So, I thought I would find out how Minister Coffey had been briefed on fly-tipping to see if she had been made aware of the abysmally low level of prosecutions by the EA. I did not foresee the run around I was going to be given.

Although briefing notes are “internal communications” they should be released once they have been redacted of any sensitive information about policy formulation. This is to give government departments “private thinking space”.

The request was made on 5th March using the excellent www.whatdotheyknow.com. It was refused on the grounds the briefings were internal communications.  On 12th April I asked DEFRA to review their decision pointing out that redacted documents could have been supplied.

They failed to carry out a review within the statutory 40 days and so I made a complaint to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO). The issue was very simple. Had DEFRA carried out a review or had they not?  All of the correspondence was there on the aforementioned web site. The complaint could have been turned around in 3 hours. However, the ICO took 3 months to issue a Decision Notice instructing DEFRA to carry out a review. They were told to do it within 35 days!

Exactly 35 days later they wrote to say they had carried out a review which had upheld their previous decision. No explanation was given as to why they could not provide redacted documents.

I have now submitted another complaint to the ICO askingthem to issue second Decision Notice instructing DEFRA to provide redacted documents.

What would  Victor Meldrew have said?

Peter Silverman
24th October 2018

 

 

 

 

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