Cheshire West and Chester Council has been slammed by the Information Commissioner after removing building control data from its website then charging people £59 for making an enquiry to view it.
An enforcement notice was issued against CWaC ordering the authority to reinstate web access to the details that were available on its website prior to November 2, 2015.
The saga began when the complainant requested dates relating to a specific building control application which had previously been available on the council’s website.
CWaC had removed the details and started charging for the information.
When challenged, CWAC said there was no statutory requirement to publish information/certificates generated under building control. And the authority said it was being asked to consider ways in which it can save money and reduce spend.
One way was to reduce unnecessary or unneeded publications online as there are infrastructure costs, such as servers and internet access, involved in online publication.
But the complainant hit back saying the council was misrepresenting his request, its actions and its entitlement to impose charges.
He confirmed he did not require copies of certificates but simply wanted dates.
The complainant added: “As you have some of the data online already and as you have created and provided the information requested and been paid to do so in order that it becomes a public record, available for the public to view, you are creating work by redacting the dates from the information you hold. This is in breach of your statutory duty.”
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) found the council was indeed in breach of regulation four of Environmental Information Regulations.
The enforcement notice states: “The commissioner considers that by actively removing information from its website, the council has breached regulation 4. Rather than progressively making information available in an easily accessible electronic format, it has taken the regressive step of removing information.”
Councillor David Armstrong, cabinet member for legal and finance, said: “The council regularly reviews the content of its online information to ensure that it is meeting its statutory obligations. In this case a decision was taken to remove some content that was subsequently challenged. Following a decision notice from the Information Commissioner all of this information was restored. The council has acknowledged the error and rectified the situation.“