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BBC monitored over response times: third of all broadcaster’s FOI complaints relate to timeliness

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has announced that the BBC, Essex Police and Greenwich Council are being monitored over the timeliness of their responses to freedom of information (FOI) requests 

The BBC is being monitored after the ICO responded to 84 complaints about their handling of FOI requests between 1 July and 30 December 2013. Almost one in three (32%) of these complaints related to concerns over the broadcaster’s response times, with no response being provided either within the statutory time limit of 20 working days, or after 40 working days where the law allows a public authority to extend the deadline.

Essex Police and Greenwich Council are also being monitored after the authorities were the subject of a significant number of complaints to the ICO over delays in their response times.

The ICO will now examine the timeliness of the three organisations’ responses to FOI requests received between 1 May and 31 July 2014. Failure to show signs of improvement during this period may result in enforcement action.

Announcing the publication of today’s monitoring list, the ICO’s Deputy Commissioner and Director of Freedom of Information, Graham Smith, said:

“While we recognise that high profile events at the BBC have resulted in a rise in the number of FOI requests received, it has become clear that the organisation is consistently failing to meet its legal requirements to respond to FOI requests in a timely manner.

“We expect the BBC, along with Essex Police and Greenwich Council, to use the monitoring period to tackle these delays and get their house in order.”     

Results of monitoring period 1 January to 31 March 2014

The ICO is currently reviewing the performance of the Cabinet Office, Crown Prosecution Service and Hackney Council, who were monitored during the first three months of this year following previous delays in their FOI responses.

Continued monitoring of Metropolitan Police and Home Office

The ICO remains concerned about the performance of the Metropolitan Police Service. The force, again, failed to make satisfactory improvements to its performance during the extended monitoring period that occurred between 1 July and 30 September 2013.

The force has provided details of changes it plans to introduce to improve its performance and the ICO is currently considering whether these proposals are sufficient, or whether further action is required. In the meantime, the ICO will continue to monitor the timeliness of the force’s responses to FOI requests until a final decision has been reached.

Following an extended period of monitoring the Home Office has made significant improvements to the timeliness of its responses. In January, the authority responded to 85% of FOI requests received within the statutory time limit and over 87% within the time limit in February 2014. As a result of these improvements the ICO has closed its formal monitoring of the authority.

Further information about the ICO’s FOI monitoring exercise

Notes to Editors

1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003. In Scotland, freedom of information is a devolved matter and Scottish public authorities are subject to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 which is regulated by the Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner in St Andrews.

3. The ICO is on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn. Keep up to date on the ICO blog and e-newsletter. Our Press Office page provides more information for journalists.

4. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides individuals or organisations with the right to request official information held by a public authority. The Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) provide access to environmental information. The ICO’s policy on enforcing public access to official information and the powers at its disposal are set out in its Freedom of information regulatory action policy

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