Publication - FOI/EIR release

Various questions concerning potholes in Scotland: EIR release

Published: 21 Feb 2020

Information request and response under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004

Published:
21 Feb 2020
Various questions concerning potholes in Scotland: EIR release
FOI reference: FOI/202000013765
Date received: 29 Jan 2020
Date responded: 19 Feb 2020
Information requested

You asked for:

1. How many claims did Transport Scotland receive for compensation for pothole damage in the last three years that figures are available?
2. How many of these claims did you pay?
3. What was the cost to you for claims in the last three years that figures are available?
4. What is the average pay out for a claim?
5. What was the cost to the Transport Scotland administratively for managing these claims in the last three years that figures are available?
6. What was the budget for fixing potholes in the last three years that figures are available?
7. What is the budget for fixing potholes this current year?
8. How much did you spend on fixing potholes in the last three years that figures are available?
9. How many potholes were fixed in the last three years that figures are available?
10. How many repairs were prompted by complaints? How many repairs were because of your own survey work?

Response

As the information you have requested is 'environmental information' for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.

This exemption is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.

In relation to questions 1-5, we do not have the information you have requested. Therefore we are refusing your request under the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs. The reason why that exception applies is that our Operating Companies and DBFO Consessionaries indemnify Scottish Ministers in relation to claims, therefore we have no involvement in this process and do not hold the information requested.

Similarly for questions 6-8, we have applied the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the ElRs as we are unable to provide this information due to there being no specific budget allocated to pothole repairs. However, information previously released in relation to similar FOI requests can be found at the following links:

https://www.gov.scot/publications/foi-18-00626/
https://www.gov.scot/publications/foi-18-03094/

With regard to question 9 I can confirm the number of potholes to be:

2017 – 11686
2018 – 17471
2019 – 13602

Finally, in relation to questions 9 and 10. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, under the exception at regulation 10(4)(b) of the EIRs a public authority may refuse a request for
information if it is ‘manifestly unreasonable’.

The Scottish Information Commissioner’s guidance on the regulation 10(4)(b) exception at: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/Law/EIRs/EIRsExceptions.aspx says that in deciding whether a request is ‘manifestly unreasonable’, “The Commissioner will take into account the same kinds of considerations as when reaching a decision as to whether a request is vexatious under FOISA”. The Commissioner’s guidance on vexatious requests under FOISA at: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/Law/FOISAEIRsGuidance/Section14/Vexatious_or_repeated_requests.aspx says that “The following factors will be relevant to a finding that a request (which may be the latest in a series of requests or other related correspondence) is vexatious:

(i) it would impose a significant burden on the public authority;
(ii) it does not have a serious purpose or value;
(iii) it is designed to cause disruption or annoyance to the public authority;
(iv) it has the effect of harassing the public authority;
(v) it would otherwise, in the opinion of a reasonable person, be considered to be manifestly unreasonable or disproportionate.”

We consider that one of these factors apply to your request as it would impose a significant burden to conclude how many pothole repairs were prompted by complaints or by inspections. This would involve analysing every trunk road inspection and complaint record for the last 3 years. For these reasons, we consider that your request is manifestly unreasonable and so we are refusing it under regulation 10(4)(b).

As the exception is conditional we have applied the ‘public interest test’. This means we have, in all the circumstances of this case, considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. While we recognise that there may be some public interest in information about potholes on the trunk roads, this is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring the efficient and effective use of public resources by not complying with information requests which are manifestly unreasonable.

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 Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG