Cymraeg

 

The following procedure is designed to deal with any FOI requests, making the union as transparent as is possible whilst recognising the time and financial constraints the organisation is under, and at all times respecting the confidentiality of individual staff members.

Publishing Data

All students’ unions, as student led organisations should by nature be as transparent as possible in decision making so that students can be kept informed of decisions made in their name.  Currently for this year we have published minutes on our website for the trustee board, course rep council, student assembly and union executive committee, however none of these are completely up to date and are largely unavailable in Welsh.

There are also several other meetings such as UMCA Executive, Student Support Executive, Student Media Executive, Sports Clubs Forum, and Societies Forum which are sub-groups of the Union Executive Council whose minutes are not shown on our website.

  • As a students’ union we should commit to publishing minutes of all student led meetings, once adopted, on our website. These should be available in English and Welsh within a maximum of 50 days of the meeting taking place (except Board of Trustee Minutes which have to be approved at the following meeting, and thus  shall be published within 50 days of being approved).

By publishing this array of information as a matter of course, we should help to reduce the need for students to submit large numbers of FOI requests as a large amount of information that they might  require would already be available.

 

Administrative Cost

The trustees will be aware that the union has undergone significant upheaval over the last several months and as such staff capacity is extremely limited.  Dealing with a large number of requests is very costly, and will prevent staff from achieving their main objectives.  As an example of the scale of what may occur, the university has received 19 FOI requests alone from The Courier in this academic year. Note from the motion also that all requests have to come to and be decided on by the CEO, the organisation’s most expensive human resource.

  • To discourage frivolous requests for information, or those for information that is actually publically available, that unnecessarily take up staff time I recommend that FOI requests by students which are accepted should require a payment of £25 to be taken in advance for each and every question.

 

Procedures for FOI requests

  • Only members of AUSU can make a request
  • Requests must be made in writing in English or Welsh
  • Request are made to the CEO
  • All requests are acknowledged
  • CEO considers whether request is valid – it is refused if considered to be prohibitively costly to process, is vexatious in nature, the information requested is exempt or the information is not held. If the information is available already, the person requesting the information will be directed to the source of that information.
  •  Once a request has been confirmed as valid, a request for payment will be sent to the student which must be paid to reception
  • Once payment is received, the Students’ Union will have 50 working days to respond to the request.  Where possible, requests will be responded to sooner, but due to the natural squeeze periods of students’ unions (such as during elections or the start of the academic year), and the lack of dedicated staff for FOI requests, it is necessary to extend the response time detailed in the Freedom of Information Act 2000 of 20 working days
  • Once a request is completed, the information will be published on the students’ union website

 

 

FOI requests will be refused if...

 

  • It is estimated that it will cost more than £125 for the students’ union to provide the information.  This differs from the FOI Act 2000 guidance of £450 as the students’ union does not have dedicated staff to deal with FOI requests and excessive amounts of time spent dealing with FOI requests will hinder the capacity of the students’ union to represent students

In estimating whether the cost of complying with a request for information is likely to exceed £125, the union can only take account of the costs it reasonably expects to incur in:

 

  • Determining whether it holds the information requested;
  • Locating the information;
  • Retrieving the information; and
  • Extracting the information from a document containing it.

 

The students’ union will use a figure of £25 per person per hour in estimating the cost of the labour involved in any of these four activities, regardless of the actual cost. The labour can be either the union’s own staff or independent contractors engaged by the union to assist with handling the requests for information.

 

In effect, the union should consider whether it will take longer than 5 hours to carry out the above activities.

 

For these purposes, the union cannot consider the costs (including labour costs) of:

 

• Giving general advice and assistance to the applicant;

• Considering whether further details are required from the applicant;

• Considering whether the request is vexatious or repeated;

• Calculating any fees to be charged;

• Consulting with third parties; or considering whether any exemptions apply, including any legal costs incurred in deciding whether any exemptions apply.

 

  • If the students’ union deems a request to be vexatious in nature

 

A request is vexatious if a reasonable person would conclude that the effect of the request would be disproportionate or cause inconvenience or expense to the union, and that the request:

 

• Clearly does not have any serious purpose or value;

• Is designed to cause disruption or annoyance;

• Has the effect of harassing the Union or its officers and employees or

• Can otherwise fairly be characterised as obsessive or manifestly unreasonable.

 

The Union must consider the nature of the request, not the nature of the applicant. Factors which may suggest that requests are vexatious include:

• The declared intention of the applicant or the Union’s knowledge of the applicant’s intentions (e.g. where the Union knows that there is an orchestrated campaign to cause the Union inconvenience);

• The request clearly has no serious purpose or value (this will often arise where there has been a series of requests);

• The effect of legitimate editing of the information (e.g. the deletion of confidential materials) would render the information worthless; or

• The information requested is clearly exempt.

 

  • If the information requested is exempt

 

Information which would be classed as exempt includes...

 

  • Information which is otherwise reasonably accessible to the applicant
  • Disclosure of the information would be prejudicial to the commercial interests of any person (including the public authority holding it)
  • Information is personal data (staff addresses, ages or salaries, students’ fee remission status, etc.) Information which will be published at a future date (even if undetermined) and it is reasonable to be withheld
  • Information which has already been published Information which is likely to prejudice prevention of crime, administration of justice, operation of immigration controls
  • Information which would otherwise prejudice, or would be likely otherwise to prejudice, the effective conduct of public affairs
  • Information that would endanger the physical or mental health of an individual or the safety of an individual
  • Disclosure of information would breach the Data Protection Act
  • Disclosure of information obtained from third parties would cause a breach of confidence
  • The information is owned, or jointly owned by a third party and they object to its disclosure
  • The information is non-official i.e. it is not related to the official duties of any of the employees, for example, personal e-mails or related to unofficial or private correspondence with trade unions
  • If the information is not held

 

Appeals Process

 

If a request is refused, the reason will be given and the option for a student to appeal a refusal to the board of trustees will be given, with an opportunity for the student to submit why they feel that the students’ union should respond to the FOI request.

 

If an appeal is successful, then the countdown of 50 working days to respond to the request will begin on the next working day.