January – the FOI Officer’s Hangover

FOI Man makes a plea for patience from those who made requests before Christmas.

January – it’s a hard month for all of us, isn’t it? Most of us have had at least a few days off over Christmas and new year, so getting into the swing of things is always tricky. And many of us have been lucky enough to have almost a fortnight away from the office. And then we come back to the darkest days, a pile of work and no holiday in sight.

SOAS, my own organisation, shuts down completely for the whole of Christmas week every year. Even if I wanted to I couldn’t be in the office to deal with FOI requests and other matters of a pressing nature. Some other FOI Officers will be in the same boat. And even when the office was open before Christmas, the availability of colleagues to answer queries and discuss how to answer requests was, as ever, in long slow decline during December. So even the welcome discovery that we have an unexpected extra day  is little consolation to the returning FOI Officer facing a rush of FOI deadlines, having lost the meat of the time allowed – between one and two weeks – to work on the requests.

Generally speaking, I’d advise any requester to avoid making requests during December if their need for a response is urgent. But if you did feel the need to submit an FOI request during December, please do retain a little festive goodwill and be patient – it may well take a little longer for some authorities to respond at this time of year, despite their best efforts.

I’ll be writing a regular column for PDP’s Freedom of Information Journal this year, and if you want to know more about how 20 working day deadlines work, my first article will be on that very subject. Watch this space!

One comment

  1. Paul Cardin says:

    I think you’re probably speaking up for FoI departments that are adequately resourced – and I completely sympathise. However I’d advise people not to live on Wirral if their need for a response is urgent. Not just at Christmas, but any time of the year:

    http://easyvirtualassistance.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/abusive-wirral-council-slyly-blames-10-members-of-the-public-for-its-woeful-foi-performance/

    Festive goodwill? Hmmmmmm 🙂