West Midlands Police had more than 500 Freedom of Information requests outstanding earlier this year.

By law public authorities are required to respond to requests within 20 working days of them being made.

At the end of August this year West Midlands Police had 525 requests that were outstanding. This is around half the number of requests they receive a year.

More than 200 of these unanswered requests were dated before the start of 2013. 

It’s unknown how long the oldest requests have been delayed but the following two Tweets give an idea of the wait for responses.

 


A graph in the report produced into their FOI performance (in the document below) shows they have improved their performance in responding to requests on time.

However in May fewer than 40% of requests were responded to in time.

Although they have improved to 60% this is still woefully below the 85% the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) requires.

The ICO should use their power to act on the terrible performance of the authority. They probably won’t though.

If you know any public authorities that are performing worse than West Midlands Police then let us know by tweeting @FOIDirectory. 

Just don’t answer requests

In a completely uninformed review of FOI performance by a team from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) bosses considered scrapping all outstanding FOI requests and starting from scratch. The three proposed options were to:

  • Write off the entire backlog
  • Temporarily increase resources to complete all requests.
  • Identify a reasonable cut off period (they decided on 1st Jan 2013), after which all requests would be responded to, and requests before this time would be reviewed.

The reviewing unit decided to go with the third option.

Unsurprisingly after speaking to the ICO the force decided that it would answer all requests – and follow the law.

The police told the Birmingham Mail:
“We are in the process of apologising in writing to anyone who submitted a Freedom of Information request before January and is yet to receive a response.

“We are keen to establish if they still require the information and, if so, whether they would like to amend their initial request to make sure what we provide is more relevant.”

The following graph shows the number of requests received by the force for each month from 2009.

Their full report into FOI performance can be found below: 

Photo credit: West Midlands Police / Flickr (Under creative commons licence) 

I am a journalist and author. I am a journalist at the UK edition of WIRED magazine. In 2015, my first book Freedom of Information: A Practical Guide for UK Journalists, was published. My second book Reed Hastings: Building Netflix, was published in March 2020. I created FOI Directory in 2012 and have maintained it in my spare since ever since.