A thorough report by mySociety on FOI in local government:
of information is a significant legal instrument in the UK - but currently very little is currently understood about how councils cope with this sometimes significant workload. While central government Freedom of Information (FOI) statistics are well covered by the Cabinet Office series, there is no equivalent picture for local government. The goal of this research was to construct a more detailed picture of FOI at
the local level, to understand how many requests were being sent, how much internal visibility exists over the status of requests, and calculate the contribution of requests made through WhatDoTheyKnow to the total number of requests made overall.
research is based on two sets of FOI Requests made to local authorities
and an anonymous survey of FOI officers. The report aims to provide a clear illustration of the current scale and operational approach to FOI in local government. The key conclusions are:
- 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.
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- Most councils (64%) do not publish a disclosure log .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.