The ICO exists to empower you through information.

Dear colleague,

Today, as my office takes further regulatory action against five public organisations for their continued failings to meet their obligations under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, I am writing to remind you that transparency is essential if the people and communities we serve are to have confidence in the way that public services are delivered.

FOI is a fundamental part of transparency. Getting it wrong can mean additional resources are needed to deal with complaints and appeals about decisions, at a time when services are under sustained pressure and resources are stretched. It is in your interest to get it right.

I know that many organisations are already leading by example but, as demonstrated by the enforcement action my office has taken over the last 18 months, many need to do more.

I am calling on you to encourage your staff, whatever their role, to take FOI seriously. You need to dedicate resources to improving access to information and transparency, and ensure you have the right training, processes and culture in place.

Your leadership makes a real difference. We recently published case studies that demonstrate how leadership has driven forward an open and transparent culture. I urge you to take a look and challenge yourself to see how your organisation compares.

If you’re not sure where to start, here are some simple steps you can take:

  • Know what you need to publish and make as much information publicly available as possible.
  • Look at what people are asking you about and actively publish it.
  • Implement simple policies that show staff how to manage information requests effectively.
  • Share our simple ‘FOI in 90 seconds’ guide and response templates with your staff.
  • Provide mandatory FOI training for all staff, review it regularly and offer refresher training.
  • Invest in tools and systems to manage and respond to information requests.
  • Monitor performance to ensure your organisation is complying with its legal duties using our template action plan and self-assessment toolkits.

The ICO is here to help you on your journey towards transparency. Together, we can get FOI right, reduce the administrative burden on services and provide reassurance to the communities we serve.

John Edwards, Information Commissioner