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Publication - FOI / EIR Release

Scottish Government's proposals for council tax reform: FOI release

Published: 25 Aug 2017

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

FOI reference: FOI/16/01737
Date received: 8 November 2016
Date responded: 23 August 2017

Information requested

  1. All internal communications between 1 December 2015 and 2 March 2016 within the Local Government and Communities directorate regarding the Scottish Government's proposals for council tax reform;

  2. All internal communications between 1 December 2015 and 2 March 2016 between the Local Government and Communities directorate and the Scottish Government concerning the Scottish Government's proposals for council tax reform.

Response

Due to the file size of the documents released, copies can be provided on request by emailing ceu@gov.scot, quoting the FOI reference number FOI/16/01737.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because exemptions apply under sections of the Freedom of Information Scotland Act 2002. These sections are:

  • Section 25 Information otherwise accessible.(1) Information which the applicant can reasonably obtain other than by requesting it under section 1(1) is exempt information.

  • Section 29 Formulation of Scottish Administration policy etc.(1) Information held by the Scottish Administration is exempt information if it relates to: (a) the formulation or development of government policy; (b) Ministerial communications;

  • Section 30 Prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs.(b) - would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially: (i) the free and frank provision of advice; or (ii) the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation;

  • Section 36 Confidentiality.(1) Information in respect of which a claim to confidentiality of communications could be maintained in legal proceedings is exempt information.

  • Section 38(1)(b): The personal data of a third party.

The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below.

Reasons for not providing information

Exemptions applying subject to the public interest test.

Exemptions under sections Section 29(1) (a) and (b) and 30 (b)(i) and 30 (b)(ii) of FOISA apply to some of the information you have requested. These section respectively relate to the formulation or development of government policy; the free and frank provision of advice to Ministers and officials and the free and frank exchange of views amongst Ministers and officials for the purposes of deliberation.

An exemption under section 36(1) of FOISA (confidentiality in legal proceedings) applies to a small amount of the information requested because it is legal advice and disclosure would breach legal professional privilege.

These exemptions are subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered whether the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We recognise that there is some public interest in release because there will always be an interest in what was considered in relation to a given issue. However, we have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding these exemptions given the reform of local taxation continues to be a live policy area, as evidenced by statements by Scottish Ministers and various exchanges in Parliament. In the case of material exempted subject to the section 36(1) exemption, maintaining the right to confidentiality of communications between legal advisers and clients, we seek to ensure that Ministers and officials are able to receive legal advice in confidence, like any other public or private organisation.

Other Exemptions Applying

Some of the information you requested is exempt under Section 25 of FOISA. This applies where information is otherwise accessible- in this case in both the Official Report of the Scottish Parliament and in National Statistics available at http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Local-Government-Finance/CTR

and

http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Local-Government-Finance/DatasetsCouncilTax.

Exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to a small amount of the information requested because it is personal data- in essence we have redacted names of 3rd parties, the contact details for junior officials and personal mobile phone numbers. In these cases, disclosure would contravene the data protection principles of the Data Protection Act 1998. This exemption is not subject to the 'public interest test', so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference

Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

Published:
25 Aug 2017
Scottish Government's proposals for council tax reform: FOI release