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  • Council hit with enforcement notice for “repeated, systemic” failures on information law
  • “No discernible improvement” after previous concerns raised
  • Council could be found in contempt of court if failures persist

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued an enforcement notice to Croydon Council for its poor handling of requests made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000.

On 26 September 2022, the Information Commissioner directed Croydon Council to improve its compliance with the FOIA. The Council promised improvements, and the Commissioner agreed to assess the Council’s progress after Easter 2023.

The Commissioner received an update from the Council in June 2023. This showed that the Council’s progress had not been maintained, with its performance having actually declined. The Commissioner was deeply disappointed that having highlighted the high volume of decision notices issued to the Council prior to issuing the Practice Recommendation, there appears to have been no discernible improvement from the Council in this regard.

The enforcement notice requires the council to respond to all outstanding requests over 20 working days old, no later than six months from the date of the notice. It is also required to devise and publish an action plan to mitigate any future delays to FOI requests, within 35 days from the date of the notice.

The consequence of failing to comply with an Enforcement Notice is that the Commissioner may make written certification of this fact to the High Court pursuant to section 54 of FOIA. Upon consideration and inquiry by the High Court, the Council may be dealt with as if it had committed a contempt of court.

“People have a legal right to be able to ask their council about its actions and receive an answer promptly. What we have seen with Croydon Council is repeated, systemic failures at complying with transparency legislation. They are failing their residents, and we are now compelling them to do better.”

“Any public authority with poor Freedom of Information compliance levels may be subject to enforcement or practice recommendations as part of the ICO’s commitment to promoting openness, transparency and accountability.”

- Phillip Angell, Head of FOI Casework at the ICO

The action comes under the ICO’s renewed approach to regulating the FOIA where public authorities are clearly not complying with the law. The approach is set out in the ICO’s new FOI and Transparency Regulatory Manual and three-year strategic plan, ICO25.

An enforcement notice is issued under s52 of FOIA, and requires a public authority to take specific steps to comply with part I of the Act. It is a formal notice issued to address system-wide or repeated breaches. Failure to comply with the enforcement notice may lead to the council being found in contempt of court.

Notes to editors
  • The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the UK’s independent regulator for data protection and information rights law, upholding information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  • The  ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA2018), the United Kingdom General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR), the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR), Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR) and a further five acts and regulations.
  • The ICO can take action to address and change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit.
  • To report a concern to the ICO telephone call our helpline on 0303 123 1113, or go to