FOIMan highlights a new report from the Campaign for FOI on good practice – and whether London councils are meeting it.
The Campaign for FOI has conducted research into the way London local authorities meet their FOI obligations – and has found a mixed picture. They found that:
- whilst some councils answered almost all requests within 20 working days in 2017-18, three quarters of them failed to meet the ICO’s expectation of 90% answered on time, and seven councils answered on time less than 70% of the time
- some councils even ignored the ICO’s interventions
- a third of councils did not publish FOI stats as of December 2018, and very few councils publish figures on refusals
- four councils do not publish an email address that applicants can use to make requests, instead insisting that requests are submitted via a form, and half of councils do not publish a telephone number so that applicants can ask for advice
- two-thirds of London councils do not have a disclosure log
- some councils reported having no internal guidance on FOI, and only a handful published their guidance on their website
- some council guidance contained errors such as suggesting that staff could charge applicants.
The report makes 14 recommendations including quarterly publication of statistics (which is in any case what is required now under the new s.45 code), that the ICO be clear with authorities that they could face enforcement action, that stats, internal guidance and disclosure logs be published, and that authorities be more helpful to applicants. The full report can be read via the Campaign for FOI’s website (and you may want to consider donating to the Campaign if you find the report interesting).
If you’re working for a council and struggling with FOI, you will find The Freedom of Information Officer’s Handbook addresses all of these issues. You can, of course, also get in touch for training and for help with revising FOI policies and procedures – if that’s of interest, drop me a line.