INFORMATION COMMISSIONER AND TRIBUNAL DECISIONS - NEXT FOI CASE LAW UPDATE 6TH JUNE 2024. RESERVE YOUR PLACE NOW!

Information Commissioner says FOI ‘a priority’

The Information Commissioner, John Edwards, launched a new strategy on 14th July 2022 and promised FOI was “a priority”. We’ve previously highlighted how the increasing focus on data protection by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) had elbowed FOI off the page, so this is welcome news. Mr Edwards said:

“There are few regulators who can say their work is of fundamental importance to the functioning of democracy. But that is the value of the Freedom of Information Act. My role is to ensure the administration of that law is fit for the modern world.”

The ICO also announced that it is:

“committing to delivering more systemic enforcement action against public authorities that clearly and consistently fail to meet their FOI obligations.” 

We’ve repeatedly pressed the ICO to make greater use of its enforcement powers, so this is encouraging.

We’ve also highlighted the substantial delays (often around nine months) before the ICO begins investigating FOI complaints and called for greater transparency about its FOI casework. The ICO has now promised to publish:

“quarterly updates on our FOI casework so people can see how we are performing as a regulator and how long they can expect to have their cases resolved”.  

It is also looking at how it can speed up its complaints handling and reduce the current backlog to pre-pandemic levels by March 2023, earlier than it previously hoped. But even before the pandemic it typically took the ICO six months to issue a decision, so further improvements will be needed. However, these commitments are a promising start

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