The ICO exists to empower you through information.

08 November 2022

As I have set out in previous blogs, we are currently running a ‘Better FOI’ transformation programme. This is supporting the work we need to do both to clear our backlog, while also helping us plan for how we will deliver on our wider commitments under ICO25 to promote openness, transparency and accountability.

This is important. We need to deliver a better service so people get access to information quickly when they should have received it already, or give them a clear decision so they know where they stand if we are going to uphold the decision originally made.

Achievements so far

A huge amount has been achieved already. We have recruited a new Upstream Regulation Team, commissioned research to support this work and have delivered a range of operational changes to help us clear cases more quickly.

The most recent operational changes, which include shorter decision notices, tougher deadlines for public bodies, an improved front-end process and empowering staff to make decisions more quickly are having a real impact.

In October we issued 308 decision notices. This is almost double the previous monthly average of 155 in Q1 and Q2 of this year, which itself was already an increase on our performance in previous years. During November it is likely we will have issued the same number of decision notices that we delivered in the entirety of 2021-2022.

This progress is a real credit to the team, who are putting an incredible effort in to deliver what is needed. We are also grateful the public bodies who are working with us constructively as we implement these changes. We will continue to seek views on what is working well and what we need to change as we continue reducing down our caseload.

It is important that we do this. Because of the pandemic, the waiting time for many of the people that come to us for help had crept up to nine months. The hard work of the team means that, by March, this should have reduced back to where we were before Covid putting us on a more stable footing.

Delivering ICO25

We also know that we do not just want to go back to where we were before the pandemic. We need to work differently to meet the objectives we have set out in ICO25, the final version of which we published yesterday. So today sees another key milestone in the Better FOI Programme as we publish a consultation on how we will look to prioritise the FOI complaints we receive in the future.

As part of our approach under ICO25, we want to make information rights work more effectively, particularly on cases which have a heightened public interest. As we set out in the consultation, to do this we are proposing a new approach to proactively prioritise those cases with the highest public interest. We will then seek to deliver appropriate resolutions in these cases as quickly as possible, while also managing the rest of our caseload in line with new targets that deliver a better service to the people that need us.

As part of the consultation, we are seeking views from the public bodies we regulate, civil society, the media and requestors on the approach we have set out. You can respond to the consultation directly via our website. We look forward to seeing what you have to say.

Warren Seddon is ICO Director of Freedom of Information and Transparency responsible for the ICO’s freedom of information (FOI) policy and guidance. Warren also oversees the handling of people’s complaints to the ICO over public authorities’ responses to requests for information under the FOI Act and Environmental Information Regulations (EIR).