York Council slow to answer information requests

The York Council is struggling to reach statutory response time targets for responding to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

The number of such requests increased following the change in policy implemented by the new Council – elected in May 2011 – which saw more decisions taken behind closed doors and background information withheld from residents.

The local media have also struggled to get answers to legitimate questions

The Information Commissioner had to be called in force the Council to reveal information about bus services

A guide to FOI can be found here.https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/

The Council admits,

“Between April 2012 and March 2013, 239 FoI responses have taken more than (the deadline of)20 days

Of the 239, on some occasions, extensions to the deadline have been negotiated with those requesting information. In other cases, the complexity of a request has contributed to a delay.

The Council also accepts that some were delayed because of the volume of requests received at particular times.

A review is currently underway to consider how the FOI process could be improved”.

We have some sympathy with the York Council which, in 2009, became one of the first in the country to routinely publish its responses to FOI requests on its web site.

It is also true that some commercial interests clog the system with repeat requests for information about contracts and lists of ratepayers that they believe they can exploit on a commission basis.

But taxpayers do have a legal right to information and the processes need to be speeded up.

The number of FOI requests is likely to increase further as the Council is now reducing the frequency that it publishes quality of public service statistics

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