FOI Good Practice: A survey of London local authorities
This report examines the extent to which London councils are following good practice in complying with the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
The FOI Act and related Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) have been in force since 2005. They give the public powerful rights to information from public authorities about their decisions, policies and services. Nationally, the rights are used by hundreds of thousands of people a year. Around 60,000 requests are made annually to London councils.
An authority that approaches FOI positively, recognising it as an important right and an opportunity to be open and accountable will respond in an entirely different way to one that is indifferent, badly informed, or worse, actively obstructive.
This report is based on councils' own FOI policies, guidance, performance reports and statistics, the manner in which they handled Freedom of Information requests filed by the Campaign for Freedom of Information and a review of relevant Information Commissioner (IC) decisions.
Indicators of good practice include
- How well London councils comply with the statutory time limits for answering requests
- Whether they monitor and seek to improve their own FOI performance
- Whether they publish their FOI compliance statistics
- How they fulfil their duty to advise and assist requesters
- Whether they publish the information they have disclosed under FOI
- The quality of the FOI guidance they produce for their staff
- Any special procedures they adopt in dealing requests likely to attract publicity
- Some London councils deal with virtually all FOI requests within 20 working days, others only manage to answer around 60% within this period - a deeply disappointing level of performance.
- In the course of the project, the Campaign for FOI had to make eight complaints to the Information Commissioner (IC) about seven London councils which failed to respond to one or more of their requests.
- Nearly a third of London councils published no FOI statistics of any kind.
- 30 of 34 London councils failed to reveal the numbers of requests they answered or refused.
- Authorities should report publicly every quarter on the number of requests not answered within the required time scales, setting out the causes of the delay and the steps being taken to address them.
- Authorities should link to their published FOI statistics and performance reports from the FOI page of their website.
- Authorities should publish quarterly statistics on their FOI performance in accordance with the statutory guidance in the July 2018 Freedom of Information code of practice.
- Authorities should publish their FOI guidance to staff, linking to it from their FOI web page.
- The IC should reinstate its lapsed 2010 enforcement policy, including the monitoring of underperforming authorities, to ensure that authorities answer at least 90% of requests on time. It should demonstrate a readiness to issue Enforcement Notices where persistent delays continue.
You may also be interested in
Beyond Box-Ticking: Assessing Local Plan policy impacts on equality and inclusion
London - Planning for a Just City?
Infant mortality over time
Get involved in London Challenge Poverty Week 2019
Reflecting on our 2018 grant making
Citizenship & Integration Initiative
Preventing Racist Violence
From our Twitter
Moving piece from @pollytoynbee . We had the pleasure of meeting with the amazing Thiara Sanchez recently.She’s a talented, educated, aspirational young Londoner who,like many others,finds herself locked out of the economic opportunity the city has to offer http://bit.ly/2r889JQ19 Nov 2019
We're with @neweuropeansUK and @BrexitCSA this evening at City Hall for the launch of their report (supported by our member @trustforlondon ) on the role of the voluntary sector in the EU Settlement scheme pic.twitter.com/G1FKTUvz2H19 Nov 2019
Later today, our grantee @neweuropeansUK will be hosting this event at City Hall, inviting the sector together to explore topics of issues faced by Europeans and why the changing landscape of #EU integration matters to all of us http://bit.ly/37lHkTm #Brexit pic.twitter.com/rTjz3X9pKs19 Nov 2019
Looking forward to today's #LondonHousingPanel meeting. For those unfamiliar: https://www.trustforlondon.org.uk/issues/housing/london-housing-panel/ … Too many brilliant members to tag, but: @trustforlondon @RajiHunjan @SolaceWomensAid @NHyouthcentre @toniclivingcic @LondonTenants @Kineara @genrentuk @HomelessLink and more!19 Nov 2019