The ICO has today published action on five public bodies – Liverpool City Council, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, the Ministry of Defence and the Environment Agency - for failures to meet expected standards in responding to Freedom of Information Act requests.
The action coincides with a year since the ICO published our new Freedom of Information (FOI) regulatory manual, which set out its approach to more strategic enforcement of FOI in line with its statutory powers. In a blog post today, Warren Seddon marked the anniversary by highlighting increased action taken by the ICO over the last year.
Action we’ve taken
- Enforcement notices issued to the Ministry of Defence and the Environment Agency requiring them to respond to hundreds of requests that have passed the legal deadline of 20 working days for a response. In some cases, responses are years overdue in both organisations.
- Practice recommendation issued to The London Borough of Tower Hamlets for consistently failing to meet the expected level of performance in terms of responding to Freedom of Information Act requests within the statutory timeframe and the number of overdue requests has increased in the first half in 2023.
- Practice recommendation issued to Liverpool City Council for consistently poor level of performance in terms of its response times to Freedom of Information Act requests. This has been highlighted by the disproportionately high number of complaints about response times submitted to the Information Commissioner, as well as the number of decision notices he has had to issue to the Council to compel it to respond to outstanding requests.
- Practice recommendation issued to the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency for failures to conform to the Freedom of Information Act Code of Practice.
“One year on from publishing our new approach to enforcing people’s right to access public information, we have delivered more than double the action we had taken in the 17 years since FOI law came into force.
“Responding to Freedom of Information Act requests effectively and efficiently is important for maintaining transparency as well as the trust of the public.
“Senior leaders in all public authorities should look at what we are saying to their colleagues and make sure that their own organisation’s performance and processes comply with the law as the public rightly expect them to and that we will use our powers to enforce when needed.”
- Warren Seddon, Director of FOI & Transparency at the Information Commissioner’s Office
Notes for 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 ico.org.uk/concerns.