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The BBC is to be monitoring for not answering enough Freedom of Information requests on time it has been revealed. 

The Information Commissioner’s Office, which regulated FOI across England, Wales and Northern Ireland state that all authorities should attempt to respond to 85% of requests within the appropriate timescales.

It was revealed by the ICO that almost a third of all complaints received surrounding BBC FOI requests were due to the amount of time taken to respond to the queries.

There will now be a three month monitoring period, from 1 May and 31 July 2014, where the ICO closely scrutinises the broadcaster’s performance.

Along with the BBC the 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.

At the beginning of this year it was announced that the Cabinet Office, the Crown Prosecution Service and Hackney Council would all be monitored by the regulator. This period has now ended and their performance is being reviewed. 

In effect the ICO has said BBC cannot blame the Jimmy Savile scandal increasing the number of requests for not answering enough FOI requests on time.

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.”

Met police not out of woods

Following previous monitoring the Metropolitan Police’s performance is still being considered by the ICO.

The authority had previously faced an extended monitoring period for its unsatisfactory performance.

In an ICO press release it said the improvements have not been great enough and they will continue to be monitored.

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.

Let off for the Home Office

The ICO has said that the Home Office has improved its response rate enough to be taken off of its monitoring scheme.

In its release the ICO said:

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.

However in recent statistics published by the Ministry of Justice the Home Office was the central government department to have responded late to the most FOI requests in 2013.

 

I am a journalist and author. I am a staff writer at the UK edition of WIRED magazine and in 2015 my book, Freedom of Information: A Practical Guide for UK Journalists, was published. I created FOI Directory in 2012.