The UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

Cabinet Office monitored over FOI response times

News release: 24 January 2014

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has announced that the Cabinet Office and two other public authorities are being monitored over the timeliness of their responses to freedom of information (FOI) requests.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, a public authority must respond to an FOI request within 20 working days. The ICO is monitoring the Cabinet Office, the Crown Prosecution Service and Hackney Council for a three month period after a significant number of complaints were made to the ICO about the timeliness of the authorities’ responses.

The ICO will examine the responses to FOI requests received between 1 January and 31 March 2014. Failure to show signs of improvement during this period may result in enforcement action.

Announcing the publication of today’s monitoring list the Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said:

“Responding to FOI requests within the statutory time limit of 20 working days is basic to delivering transparent and open government. While extensions may sometimes be justifiable for particularly complex requests, these three authorities have been selected for monitoring after serious shortcomings were identified in the time each of them has been taking to respond to FOI requests.

“It is particularly disappointing to see that the Cabinet Office has failed to maintain the improvements recorded three years ago when the authority was also monitored over the timeliness of its FOI responses. On that occasion, the Cabinet Office signed an undertaking to raise their game. Their inclusion on the latest monitoring list should act as a warning to others that lessons learnt from monitoring have to be sustained.”

Read our explanation about how we select authorities for monitoring

Results of monitoring period: April to June 2013

During the monitoring period 1 April to 30 June 2013 the Metropolitan Police Service did not make satisfactory improvements to the timeliness of its FOI responses. The monitoring period was extended by a further three months and the ICO, while recognising that the service is still going through significant reorganisation, is currently considering the results from the extended period before deciding whether further action is required.

The London Borough of Barnet and Manchester City Council did make satisfactory improvements to the timeliness of their FOI responses and are no longer being monitored.

Results of monitoring period: July to September 2013

After reviewing the results of the last monitoring period between 1 July and 30 September 2013 the Home Office is also being monitored for an additional three month period as, despite improving each month, it did not achieve satisfactory levels of performance in the timeliness of its FOI responses.

South Tyneside Council and Sussex Police have improved their performance in meeting the statutory deadline for replying to FOI requests and are no longer being monitored.

Read further information about the ICO’s FOI monitoring exercise

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.

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.

5. If you need more information, please contact the ICO press office on 0303 123 9070.