Here’s a very good report on the state of FOI and local government in the UK by Alex Parsons and Rebecca Rumbul at mySociety-see it here.
The Executive summary and my Foreward are below.
- Approximately 467,000 FOI requests were sent to local government in 2017. This almost doubles a previous estimate of the number of FOI Requests sent to local government.
- Councils have relatively universal records on the number of requests received, and time taken to reply – but have fewer records on the volume of information disclosed, or on the status of appeals.
- Approximately 35%-50% of internal reviews in local government result in a change to the original outcome.
- Staff responsible for the administration of FOI in local government tend to hold FOI as one responsibility among several.
- FOI teams tend to be embedded in larger teams with few staff solely working on FOI. As such, FOI administration rarely appears as a specific budget item. Staffing levels devoted to FOI appear to increase in correlation with an increase in the volume of FOI Requests received.
- Most councils (66%) use some form of case management system, however there is no standard or universally adopted software for FOI case management, and the quality and operability of these systems varies significantly between local authorities.
- Most councils (64%) do not publish a disclosure log. Councils that receive higher numbers of FOI Requests requests are more likely to publish a log, but accounting for other drivers of reports, there is no positive or negative effect of publishing a log.
- Replicating this exercise every year would be prohibitively difficult, however a centralised repository of the statistics disclosures required by the new code of practice would make tracking change over time (over a sector or individual authority) more straightforward and unlock more value from those disclosures.