The funding of the Freedom of Information Act’s regulator has been shifted to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) will now have its FOI budget set by DCMS rather than the Ministry of Justice, David Cameron has told Parliament.

As well as being responsible for funding the ICO the department, which John Whittingdale heads up, will also take charge of Data Protection Act policy.

The Ministry of Justice, as the sponsoring department, has previously provided a grant-in-aid for the ICO to complete work related to FOI. Data Protection enforcement is presently funded by a ‘notification fee’ that’s paid by data controllers.

In recent years the ICO has complained that the funding it receives for the regulation and enforcement of the FOI Act has not been sufficient.

Previously, minutes published by the ICO said that the funding of FOI is at a “critical” level and that without a change in funding the office wouldn’t be able to do more than handle “basic” FOI inquiries. The most recent annual report from the ICO lists future FOI funding as an area of uncertainty and says it received £3.7m for its FOI work over 2014/15.

The move in departmental responsibilities follows the reshuffling of FOI policy to the Cabinet Office earlier this year. Today’s announcement also moves Records Management policy to the Cabinet Office.

Cameron’s statement said:

“This written ministerial statement confirms that policy responsibility for data protection policy, sponsorship of the Information Commissioner’s Office, and sponsorship of The National Archives will transfer from the Ministry of Justice to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and that responsibility for government records management policy will transfer from the Ministry of Justice to the Cabinet Office. These changes will be effective from 17 September.”   

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 time ever since.