Freedom of Information news, Issue 11
- New guidance on refusal notices
- ICO rules that senior management meeting minutes be published
- ICO struggling with complaints
- FOI fees to be reviewed
- Tips for creating disclosure logs
1. New guidance on refusal notices
As a response to poorly drafted refusal notices, The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), has recently published guidance about what should be included in them. It points out that a public authority may refuse to publish information only if the request is vexatious or repeated, the cost of replying exceeds the appropriate limit, or the information falls under one of the exemptions.
The guidance is available at www.ico.gov.uk.
2. ICO rules that senior management meeting minutes be published
A recent ICO decision notice orders the Department of Education and Skills to release meeting minutes regarding school funding. The Department had refused to release the information on the basis that it related to the formulation and development of Government policy. The ICO decided that in this case, the information on school budgets is in the public interest, and should be released.
The decision is available at www.ico.gov.uk.
3. ICO struggling with complaints
After the first 12 months of FOI, the Information Commissioner’s Office is finding it hard to cope with the volume of complaints. In the first year of the new regime it received some 2,300 complaints, of which only 1,000 have been resolved so far.
To speed up the process, the ICO has set up a new case reception unit, introduced a new complaints form, more active case management and extra staff. The Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas said: “I am confident that with the changes we have made, along with our growing experience, we can accelerate case handling procedures and improve productivity.”
See ICO press release at www.ico.gov.uk.
4. FOI fees to be reviewed
Following a promise when the FOI Act was adopted, the Government is now reconsidering FOI fees. Currently, public authorities are not allowed to charge, unless the request would amount to expenses exceeding £450, or £600 within central government.
The introduction of fees might seriously affect the number of requests.
Maurice Frankel, Director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, criticises the Government’s plans in the Press Gazette: “To put fees up now, before the Act has taken root, would be a serious blow.”
5. Tips for creating disclosure logs
The Department of Constitutional Affairs advises on how to best set up and run FOI disclosure logs. It suggests that a log should include not only responses to requests made under FOI and EIRS, but also other information that the public authority has decided to disclose. The advice also discusses the data protection aspects of disclosure logs.
The guidance document is available at www.foi.gov.uk.
Copyright Privacy Laws & Business 2006