Liverpool City Council censured over ‘unacceptable’ delays in FOI responses

Liverpool Town Hall

Liverpool City Council has been censured by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for its handling of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

A Practice Recommendation has been issued by the ICO regarding the council’s low FOI response rate and the failure to respond to all requests within 20 working days.

In response, the council said it has already put an improvement plan in place to tackle the backlog and has established a central Corporate Information Team.

The improvement actions, which have already resulted in a 10% increase in responses, include developing more effective and streamlined procedures to reduce the number of overdue requests, as well as meet the statutory obligations under the Freedom of Information Act and better training on the essentials of FOI.

It is also proposed that all city council services regularly publish and release publicly available data, statistics and information on the council website.

This process has now begun with additional context often provided to a number of published replies.

Council leader, Cllr Liam Robinson, said: “How Liverpool City Council historically managed Freedom of Information inquiries was, quite frankly, unacceptable.

“This was as much down to how it was resourced and staffed and as a consequence the workloads had become unmanageable, which led to some replies becoming woefully overdue.

“Over the past 12 months that has begun to be addressed with all departments improving how data is being collated and shared.”

He added: “I’m confident the new processes and training being put in place will enable the council to more than meet the standards of the Freedom of Information Act, and demonstrate we are an open and transparent organisation.”

Chief executive, Andrew Lewis, said: “We welcome this Practice Recommendation from the ICO, and their acknowledgement of the substantial work already done on improving our Freedom of Information processes.

“Liverpool City Council has built a strong relationship with the ICO over the past year and we fully appreciate the guidance they are providing to help us achieve the standards we need to meet.

“The council has much to do to reach the levels of response the law requires – and the public deserves – but our improvement plan is showing progress is being made and we will continue to invest in training to ensure our processes help us meet those standards.”