Ministry of Justice monitored by ICO over “unacceptable delays” to FoI responses

Christopher Graham: the UK's Information Commissioner

Christopher Graham: the UK’s Information Commissioner

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is monitoring the Ministry of Justice following concerns over the timeliness of the UK Government department’s responses to freedom of information (FoI) requests.

The ICO will now review the performance of the Ministry of Justice in relation to FoI requests received between 1 September 2015 and 30 November 2015. This is due to delays being identified in a significant number of cases where the statutory time limit of 20 working days was exceeded.

The latest Ministry of Justice quarterly FoI statistics indicate that they are well below 85% which is one of the triggers for formal monitoring to be considered.

The Royal Borough of Greenwich Council – which was the subject of an extended period of monitoring – has now been taken off formal monitoring following sustained improvements in performance.

The ICO has also announced that Cumbria County Council, Nottingham City Council and Salford City Council have been taken off formal monitoring after improvements in their performance during the last monitoring period which ran between 1 February and 30 April this year.

MinistryofJusticeAnnouncing the publication of the organisation’s new FoI monitoring list, the ICO’s deputy commissioner and director of Freedom of Information, Graham Smith, said: “Transparency is a cornerstone of a modern democracy. 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 short permitted extension where weighing up the public interest is particularly complex.”

Smith continued: “We hope the Ministry of Justice uses this monitoring period to bring about significant improvements in this aspect of its service to the public. Statutory time limits are not optional. The improvements we’ve seen at the Royal Borough of Greenwich Council, Cumbria County Council, Nottingham City Council and Salford City Council are very welcome and I hope these service levels will be maintained.”

Other public authorities of ongoing concern

According to the ICO, the performance of the Metropolitan Police Service in responding to information requests “remains a concern”. The Met has recently centralised its FoI handling function and believes this will result in improvements in performance. The ICO is continuing to monitor and work with the force to ensure these improvements are achieved.

The ICO also continues to monitor and review the performance of the Department of Finance and Personnel (Northern Ireland) following an enforcement notice in respect of some long outstanding cases earlier this year.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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