Councils and Cabinet Office criticised for tardy FOI response times

Ico According to a report on the BBC News website, the Information Commissioner Christopher Graham has issued a report criticising the Cabinet Office (and scores of other public bodies) for its failure to respond to Freedom of Information requests on time.  The ICO had been closely monitoring 33 public bodies considered to have problems with the speed in which they reply to requests.

The Cabinet Office, Ministry of Defence and Birmingham City Council have been told they "have not done enough to convince [the ICO] that they have a clear and credible plan" for improving response times.  Four councils (Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington, Wolverhampton and Westminster) have been asked to sign "undertakings to improve their performance in this area".

At Big Brother Watch, we frequently issue Freedom of Information requests, particularly to local authorities.  While many do an excellent job at discharging their statutory obligations in a timely and helpful manner, there are some public bodies who simply view the legally-defined time limit in which requests must be responded to as an aspiration as opposed to a requirement.

The Information Commission – who does an excellent job at enforcing FOI rules – is right to criticise the Cabinet Office for their poor performance in this field.  The ICO's comments should serve as a warning to all other public bodies about the importance of scrupulously adhering to the Freedom of Information Act.