The complainant’s request concerns the ‘Streets Ahead’ contract Sheffield City Council (‘the Council’) has with Amey. He has requested unredacted versions of all those schedules that had not been published at the time of his request, and for the release of the information that the Council had redacted from those schedules it had published at the time of the request. The Council considered the request under the FOIA and applied particular exemptions to the requested information. During the Commissioner’s investigation the Council reconsidered its approach to the request and considered it under the EIR. Its revised position is that, at the time it was submitted, the Council was not obliged to comply with the request under regulation 12(4)(b) of the EIR. The Council has categorised the request as manifestly unreasonable by virtue of it being a vexatious request due to the disproportionate burden associated with complying with it. The Commissioner’s decision is as follows: At the time it was submitted, the request could be categorised as manifestly unreasonable under regulation 12(4)(b) by virtue of being a vexatious request. The public interest favoured maintaining the exception. The Council breached regulation 9(1) as it did not offer the complainant appropriate advice and assistance. The Council breached regulation 14(2) as it did not issue the complainant with a refusal notice under the EIR within 20 working days of receiving the request. The Commissioner requires the Council to take the following step to ensure compliance with the legislation: The Council failed to provide advice and assistance aimed at helping the complainant make a fresh request which was not so voluminous as to be manifestly unreasonable, in accordance with regulation 9(1). However, since the request was made the majority of the information has been published which would reduce the possibility of a fresh request being refused under regulation 12(4)(2). But should there remain a possibility of a fresh request for any or all of the residual information being refused under that exception, the public authority should consider what if any advice and assistance it is reasonable to provide the complainant and inform him of the results of those deliberations.
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