The number of Freedom of Information requests that were sent to central government in 2014 dropped by almost 10% compared to 2013. 

In total there were 46,806 FOI requests sent to government bodies in the 12 months of 2014. This is compared to the 51,696 which were sent in 2013 – representing a total drop of 9.5% (around 5,000 requests).

The decrease is the first time that requests to central government have dropped since the initial spike when the Act came into force.

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The statistics, published by the Ministry of Justice, show that during 2014 central government bodies saw the biggest decrease in FOI requests.

Departments of State received 30,991 requests during the year which was a 12% drop compared to the previous year. While other monitored bodies received 15,815 requests – a 4% drop.

The government said the reason for the drop comes down to more data being proactively published and also due to regulatory changes as to how information is accessed.

“Emendation to personal injury law in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 has reduced the scope for requests to the Health and Safety Executive from solicitors, and may have caused a reduction in FOI requests,” the MoJ said as it published the figures.

“Handling of requests for CCTV footage through a separate system handled by Highways England as opposed to the FOIA.”

Late responses

As ever a proportion of public authorities failed to respond to FOI requests within the 20 working day period that is required by the law.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office failed to respond to the highest percentage of requests within the the allowed time period. The office responded late to 119 of the 1164 FOI requests it received.

Despite having the highest percentage of late responses the FCO didn’t have the highest total number of late replies.

This accolade went to the Ministry of Justice, which responded late to more than 700 of the 4,000 FOI requests it received.

The Ministry of Defence was the government body that had the second highest number of late responses as it came in at 420 replies outside of the 20-working day period.

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Still being processed

When the figures were recored the Ministry of Justice, again, was the public authority with the most requests, from 2014, still outstanding.

The department was one of 24 which had FOI requests outstanding at the beginning of the year.

There were 17 departments that had no requests outstanding.

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You can get the full data here.

And the MoJ’s annual report is below.

Featured image courtesy of Esther Simpson via Flickr / Creative Commons Licence

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.