Headlines: October 4th, 2010

Eighteen local authorities, including six London Boroughs, are among the organisations being monitored by the Information Commissioner’s Office for their performance under the Freedom of Information Act. More than 30 public bodies have been named by the ICO, including the Ministry of Defence, the Cabinet Office and the Metropolitan Police.

The ICO says they are being monitored because it appears they are not meeting the requirement to respond to freedom of information requests on time. The organisations were selected after a study of the complaints received by the Commissioner showed where less than 85 per cent of requests had received a response within appropriate timescales and also occasions where authorities had exceeded time limits by a significant margin.

The Deputy Commissioner Graham Smith said the organisations, which include Birmingham City Council, the country’s largest local authority, would be monitored for three months. He warned, however, that action might be taken during that period if an authority’s standard of compliance was shown to be particularly poor or if it was unwilling to make improvements.

Mr. Smith said: “In the five years since the Freedom of Information Act was brought into force, a significant number of the complaints we receive are about organisations that take too long to respond to information requests,” and he added: “This is a perfect opportunity for the authorities named to get their houses in order and demonstrate that they take freedom of information requests seriously.”