FOI backlog until 2010

The existing backlog of Freedom of Information appeals to the Information Commissioner’s Office is now so long it will take until March 2010 to clear.

This was one of the details revealed to Press Gazette in a freedom of information release which reveals the extent to which the Information Commissioner’s office is falling behind.

Journalists have complained that the huge time lag in dealing with FoI appeals means that public authorities can effectively kick embarrassing requests into the long grass, by refusing them safe in the knowledge that the Commissioner won’t compel them to act for at least a year to 18 months.

More than one in three complaints to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) takes more than six months to process. More than one in five is still waiting adjudication after a year, and many journalists are still waiting for Freedom of Information Act requests to be answered three years since the introduction of the Act.

According to figures obtained by Press Gazette under the Act, the office’s caseload – the number of complaints assigned a case officer but waiting to be answered – has increased from 1261 in April 2006 to 1346 in December 2007.

The number of resolved complaints rose from an average of 138.8 a month inApril to December 2006 to 173.75 in 2007, though the number of new complaints received also went up from 144.3 to 162.4 a month.

In April 2007 the backlog was reduced by 49 – the ICO’s most effective month since it began keeping records. If it repeats this performance every month the current backlog would clear in March 2010.

Freedom of Information appeals backlog to 2010 (Press Gazette, 18 January 2008)