Sunday, 6 February 2011

Hackney Council only breaks the law 15% of the time?

Judging by the number of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests being dealt with by Hackney Council it's not surprising there's a bit of a backlog. There have been 237 requests via alone.

According to Hackney Council there were 883 requests over the 12 months up to September 2010 (assuming it relates to the date the request was made: September 2010.)

By it's own admission Hackney Council says people are interested in using the service. (The council said: "An increase (in FOI requests) in the lead up to national and local elections was expected, but has continued as a result of interest in the Council’s reaction to cuts in spending and as a result of increased awareness of the legislation. The number of complex requests also appears to be increasing.")

But is the council setting its targets illegally low when it comes to how long it takes to answer these FOI questions?

The council's performance has been improving but it has set itself a threshold allowing it fail to respond within the legal time limit in 15% of cases.

In an FOI request on Jed Keenan asked: "I notice that the target for requests being replied to within the statutory standard of 20 working days is set at only 85% rather than the statutory standard of 100%. Is this because this is considered the minimum that this local authority is capable of achieving?"

The Council replied: "The council's target is to provide information requested under the Freedom of Information Act within 20 working days. 85% is the Council's minimum."

Keenan (who has been criticised for bombarding Hackney with FOI requests - currently 59) said that this response "seems to imply that the Council’s minimum target is to break the law only 15% of the time" as the FOI Act is legally binding.

Ultimate responsibility for FOI in Hackney lies with the borough's head of legal services, Gifty Edila. Hopefully she's got enough staff to check whether or not the council is acting within the law - unless of course they're busy doing other bits and pieces.

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