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Government departments speed up FOI response times – but six new public authorities told to improve

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News release: 20 March 2012


The Information Commissioner has today welcomed improvements by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Cabinet Office in their response times to freedom of information (FOI) requests. But, six more public authorities, including the Welsh Government, have been required to sign undertakings committing them to speeding up the time it takes to respond to requests.

In June 2011, the MoD and the Cabinet Office, made public commitments to improve their timeliness in dealing with FOI requests after the ICO’s monitoring exercise found that they were consistently failing to meet the required standard.

Both authorities have now improved their response times with over 85% of information requests being answered within the time limit of 20 working days and are working hard to deal with outstanding requests where responses have been unduly delayed. The ICO will continue to offer support and advice to help both Departments to ensure that outstanding requests are cleared as soon as possible.

Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham said:

“Responding promptly to freedom of information requests is important for maintaining public confidence and achieving greater transparency. While both the MoD and the Cabinet Office have put a good deal of effort into making significant improvements to their FOI handling processes, it is vital that these improvements are sustained. We will continue to work with both departments to ensure that any outstanding requests over the 20 working day time limit are answered as soon as possible.”

The ICO today announced that of the 19 public authorities monitored as part of the ICO’s last monitoring exercise which took place between 1 April and 30 June 2011, the Welsh Government, Kent County Council, Cornwall Council, East Lancashire NHS Trust, Nottingham City Council and North Somerset Council, have all signed undertakings committing them to improving their performance in this area.

The other authorities have improved their response times sufficiently and no further action is being taken against them at this time.

Mr Graham continued:

“I am delighted that once again the monitoring exercise has resulted in two thirds of the monitored authorities improving their timeliness in responding to requests. However, six authorities fell below the required standard and have been told to make changes or risk formal enforcement action.”

The ICO will shortly be announcing the next list of public authorities to be monitored for the time they take to respond to FOI requests.

 

Notes to Editors

1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.

3. The ICO is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and produces a monthly e-newsletter. Our Press office page provides more information for journalists.

4. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides individuals or organisations with the right to request official information held by a public authority. The Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) provide access to environmental information. The ICO’s policy on enforcing public access to official information and the powers at its disposal are set out here:

5. If you need more information, please contact the ICO press office on 0303 123 9070 or ico.gov.uk/press