Council’s responses under scrutiny

News story
News story

WIGAN Council will remain on the national information watchdog’s monitoring list for another month due to complaints over their procedures.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) put the council under review in September having been subject “to a significant number of complaints” over Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

The monitoring period came to an end on November 30 so the ICO will assess requests received up to that date.

This means the council’s 20-day response period from the end of last month is still under consideration.

The ICO is expected to announce whether Wigan has been taken off the monitored list or not in early in the new year.

A spokesman for Wigan Council said: Our FOI response rate has been monitored over the three month period between September 1 to November 30 and we need to report our statistics to them on a monthly basis.

Statistics for September have been submitted, October statistics are being submitted in early January and the final report is due to to be submitted to the ICO on February 2, 2015.”

In September, ICO deputy commissioner Graham Smith said: “The councils we have named today should see their inclusion on the latest monitoring list as a clear signal that they need to improve their practices.

“Responding to FOI requests within the permitted timeframe is one of the cornerstones of ensuring transparent local governance.

“We will be happy to work with the councils in their efforts to turn their performances around.”

Public bodies and organisations are required by law to respond to reasonable FOI requests within 20 working days or provide an adequate explanation as to why they cannot.

Wigan Council said earlier this year the number of FOI requests received has more than doubled in four years costing £100k in 2013 alone.

In response, officers have made more information available on their website in an attempt to reduce the number of requests.

Chief executive Donna Hall said: “We’re working to improve our handling of these requests. In June, we recruited a new information officer to manage the FOI process.”