Norfolk council throws out resident’s ‘vexatious’ and ‘aggressive’ FOI request

Nelson House in Holt

Nelson House in Holt - Credit: Archant

A member of the public asking for information about a parish council's policy has been branded 'vexatious' and 'aggressive' by its councillors.

Holt sign, dated 17th May 1991. Photo: Archant Library

Holt sign, dated 17th May 1991. Photo: Archant Library - Credit: Archant Library

Barry Whiffin has described the 'ridiculous' situation at Holt Town Council, saying the group refuses to give the public information about the council's potential purchase of a new property, Nelson's House.

However Richard Neech, information officer at the Holt Town Council, says that he has 'followed the legal process' and has suggested Mr Whiffin make a formal complaint to the council.

Mr Whiffin, 72, made an initial request for information in April of this year.

His Freedom of Information Request asked for information regarding correspondence and records around the potential purchase of Nelson House, which it is believed would be used as new council offices.

The council's information officer, Richard Neech, responded to the request: 'Some activities cannot be open to all while under discussion, or are commercially sensitive. The amount of data you have requested is disproportionately unjustified, and I consider this a vexatious request under S14 of the act.'

Mr Whiffin, who formerly owned an accountancy firm, asked for a review of the refusal.

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The officer responded: 'The answer, which I suggest I have stated as tactfully as possible, is NO.' Mr Neech later commented: 'I have followed the legal process required under the FOIA, so that even the other Councillors, including the Mayor, are not aware of any details of the 5 or 6 exchanges of letters and emails between myself and Mr Whiffen.

'I also suggested if he wishes to withdraw this request and send a formal Complaint to the Town Clerk this will be reviewed in line with our Complaints Policy.'

Mr Whiffin, who lives in Grove Lane in Holt, said: 'It's just completely ridiculous. I don't know in what way the request is vexatious, this is the first FOI I have submitted to the town council. I have now submitted the denial for the review with the Information Commissioner's Office.' The father-of-two added: 'I think some councillors in Holt just think the town is their own fiefdom. We still don't even know whether the council have bought the property, we thought a deal had been agreed but they won't give us any information.'