Public bodies ‘not treating FOI requests with enough importance’

Information Commissioner Peter Tyndall
Information Commissioner Peter Tyndall

A record number of Freedom of Information requests were made to public bodies last year, according to Information Commissioner Peter Tyndall’s annual report.

But Mr Tyndall warned that public bodies were in danger of failing to adapt to the “dramatic increase” in requests since fees for FOI requests were scrapped in 2014.

A total of 30,417 requests under the Freedom of Information Act were made to public bodies in 2016.

The number of applications to the Information Commissioner to review FOI decisions rose by 32 per cent in the same year.

Last year was the worst year recorded by Mr Tyndall’s office for public bodies failing to provide timely decisions. In 24 per cent of cases accepted by the commissioner, no decision was issued by the public body at either the original decision or internal review decision stage.

Speaking at the launch of his annual report, Mr Tyndall said: “Since the removal of fees for FOI requests in 2014 there has been a dramatic increase in the number of requests made to public bodies.

“The demand has not been met with a sufficient increase in resources to process FOI requests. I am concerned that many public bodies are not treating FOI with as much importance as their other statutory functions.”

Despite the 32 per cent increase in applications for review accepted in 2016, Mr Tyndall’s office increased the number of cases it completed by 34 per cent.

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