LBWF, the Freedom of Information Act and the Data Protection Act: the obstruction and harassment of residents asking lawful questions continues

In the past few years, this blog has repeatedly revealed that LBWF obstructs local residents using the Freedom of Information Act (FIA) and the Data Protection Act when they are judged to be broaching issues that the Labour leadership considers controversial or likely to damage its reputation.

A new case confirms that this disreputable trend continues, and is suggestive, too, about whether LBWF’s Director of Governance and Law, Mark Hynes, who is also Data Protection Officer, has any culpability. 

The story can be summarised as follows.

During the summer of 2023, I discovered that between 2015 and 2020 LBWF had contracted Amey to manage asbestos removal work in the Town Hall basement, meaning that Amey had responsibility for a key health and safety precaution, the completion of permit to work (PTW) forms, which are described as providing ‘a formal control system aimed at the prevention of accidents and damage to property where foreseeable hazardous work is carried out’.

Yet when I then asked to see the PTW forms in question, I drew a blank: LBWF could not produce them, and claimed that neither could Amey.

This left me to wondering about the contractual situation. Was Amey’s responsibility for the PTW forms legally binding? And if it was, and Amey could not now produce the forms, wasn’t this likely to be a breach of contract, and moreover one that senior officers should be doing something about? 

So on 7 June 2023, I used the FIA to request the relevant LBWF-Amey contract, in order to check its details.

One month later, LBWF sent what it claimed was a reply, but in fact turned out to be a rambling diatribe about something else entirely, prompting me to straightaway request a review. 

On 8 August 2023, Mr. Hynes himself wrote back, accepted that LBWF’s previous response ‘did not provide the contract or state whether it was held’, and promised that ‘The service area responsible’ would now issue me with a copy ‘under separate cover’.

However, despite this unequivocal assurance, nothing followed, and in exasperation I appealed to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which, after investigation, ruled that LBWF had breached the FIA, and should rectify the situation by supplying the contract within ten working days. 

But LBWF ignored this, too, and as a result the ICO now has imposed a new deadline for the contract to be provided, threatening that failure to comply a second time round may lead to proceedings in the High Court for contempt, and that is where the matter currently stands. 

Four observations are pertinent.

First, as is obvious, this saga has wasted a lot of time, mine, of course, but more seriously, that of those who are paid from the public purse. In short, had LBWF from the outset proceeded as the FIA demands, there would have been no call for: 

my request for a review; 

Mr. Hynes’ investigation of whether a review was required, and his response to me; 

my subsequent complaint to the ICO; 

the ICO investigation that followed; and

the two legal letters that the ICO then have sent to LBWF.

Second, there is a not unreasonable question mark about Mr. Hynes’ involvement. He can hardly argue in this case, as he has in the past, that his junior colleagues are to blame, because (as noted) he personally made the pledge to me that LBWF would make good on its original mistake. And, as head of service, he also must have at least some degree of responsibility for the fact that when the first ICO admonition arrived, LBWF blatantly ignored it. 

What makes all this particularly concerning is the fact that, alongside the duties already noted, Mr. Hynes is LBWF’s Monitoring Officer, charged with making sure that in every respect his colleagues act according to the law.

Third, it’s reasonable to wonder, given all the fuss, why LBWF has been so obdurate. Malevolence? Incompetence? Or is there something in the Amey contract that the Town Hall big wigs are desperate to prevent becoming public? 

Finally, as Christmas approaches, spare a thought for the workers supervised by Amey in the Town Hall basement, who deserved the best health and safety protection possible, but seem, on the basis of the evidence currently available, not to have got it. 


It is also relevant to note that, when I recently submitted a subject access request, LBWF also failed to uphold the law; there followed much time-wasting correspondence; and when I then took the case to the ICO, it again ruled in my favour, concluding: ‘the London Borough of Waltham Forest have not complied with their data protection obligations, specifically Section 54 of the DPA [Data Protection Act] 2018 and Article 12 (3)(4) of the UK GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation]’.

Perhaps the Data Protection Officer responsible for this latest example of non-compliance with the law should refer himself to the Monitoring Officer.

Oh, hold on a minute…he is the Monitoring Officer.

Related Posts

LBWF and information requests: a new case shows that despite past official reprimands, Information Officer Mark Hynes’ service is still casually impeding transparency

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Despite being berated by the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2020, LBWF failings over the Freedom of Information Act continue

Mark Hynes, LBWF Director of Governance and Law, receives a second successive rebuke from the Information Commissioner’s Office: what’s going on?

Rebuked by the Information Commissioner’s Office, and revealed to have misunderstood the law, LBWF sails on regardless

LBWF and the Freedom of Information Act: some troubling new findings