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West Midlands Police have decreased the number of outstanding FOI requests it has failed to deal within 20 working days, a new report has claimed. 

The police force have, arguably,  had one of the worst number of requests outstanding in the whole country.

At the end of August last year West Midlands Police had 525 requests that were outstanding. This is around half the number of requests they receive a year. More than 200 of these unanswered requests were dated before the start of 2013. It was unknown how long the oldest requests have been delayed by, but some are believed to be from as far back as 2011.

They now say they expect the number of delayed requests to be down to 30 by April this year – with 147 currently being dealt with for the period of January 2013-January 2014.

In a report produced by the Head of Corporate Communications it was said:

The force has written to all 231 requestors of unanswered FOIs from before January 2013, offering an apology for the delay but also seeking confirmation regarding the information that they were seeking so that an effective response was forthcoming.

Where no response was received after one month, a further letter was sent similar to the first, but this time confirming that a non response would be interpreted that the information was no longer required.

Avoiding the ICO

West Midlands Police avoided being included in the Information Commissioner’s Office’s list of authorities which would be monitored for poor performance when the list was announced a couple of weeks ago. The report by the force says that the responses and general communication sent to those who had requests overdue was agreed upon by the ICO.

It is also stated that the approach to solving the backlog of outstanding requests was approved by the ICO. The force’s willingness to communicate with the regulator on its poor performance and seek help would indicate the ICO felt improvement was being made and official monitoring would not be required.

Future performance

To ensure the same problem does not happen again the police force are set to hire two new officers in 2014 – on one year contracts.

They have also said that all requests are now being published online.

The report says:

Work will start soon on a publication scheme whereby information that could later be requested as part of the FOI process is published pro-actively thus, once again, reducing demand on the team.

You can read the full report below. 

West Midlands Police FOI update


Photo credit: West Midlands Police / Flickr (Under 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.