The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is monitoring a Northern Ireland department and three councils following concerns over the timeliness of their responses to freedom of information (FOI) requests.  

The ICO will review the performance of the Department of Finance and Personnel (Northern Ireland), Cumbria County Council, Nottingham City Council and Salford City Council in relation to FOI requests received between 1 February and 30 April 2015.

The Department of Finance and Personnel, Cumbria County Council and Nottingham City Council are being monitored due to delays in at least four cases where the authorities took considerably longer than the statutory time limit of 20 working days to respond. Salford City Council is being monitored as the authority is currently responding to less than 65% of all of its FOI requests within the legal timeframe.

The ICO has also announced that Lambeth Council, Tower Hamlets Council, Warwick District Council and Wigan Council are being taken off formal monitoring after improvements in their performance during the last monitoring period between 1 September and 30 November 2014.

Announcing the publication of today’s FOI monitoring list the ICO’s Deputy Commissioner and Director of Freedom of Information, Graham Smith, said:

“Public authorities must respect people’s rights of access to information. That means responding to FOI requests within the statutory timeline of 20 working days, or with a slight extension if the request is particularly complex.

“We hope these public authorities use their inclusion on the latest monitoring list as an opportunity to get their houses in order so they can provide an acceptable service to the public by handling requests more efficiently in the future. The improvements we’ve seen at Lambeth, Tower Hamlets, Warwick and Wigan councils are welcome.”  

Other public authorities of ongoing concern

The ICO continues to monitor the FOI performance of Greenwich Council after the authority failed to significantly improve its performance when it was monitored between 1 May and 31 July 2014. The authority’s latest performance figures covering 1 November to 31 January 2015 are currently being reviewed before the ICO decides whether formal regulatory action is required.

The performance of the Metropolitan Police Service in responding to information requests remains a concern. While their performance has improved since they were first placed on monitoring, the ICO is continuing to monitor and work with them to ensure these improvements are sustained.

ENDS

If you need more information, please contact the ICO press office on

0303 123 9070 or visit the website at: www.ico.org.uk.  

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. Read more in the ICO blog and e-newsletterOur Press Office page provides more information for journalists.
  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. The ICO’s policy on enforcing public access to official information and the powers at its disposal are set out here. In Scotland, freedom of information is a devolved matter and Scottish public authorities are subject to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 which is regulated by the Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner in St Andrews.