The DCA yesterday released the Freedom of Information statistics for July to September 2006. The data shows a slight drop in the number of requests for all monitored bodies (5%) compared to last year, but broadly I would say this indicates demand for FOI holding up. It is also worth noting that "the number of requests received by Departments of State increased by 8 per cent during this 12-month period, but the total received by other monitored bodies fell by 17 per cent." (see page 8) The DCA seem to be using the stats to make a point about the rising burden on depts of state (compared to the other monitored bodies e.g. agencies), to help the case for the new fees regs proposals (Martin at open secrets has posted his comments on this and has noted the the the increase to the Depts totals was mainly due to a doubling of requests to the Home Office, rather than any overall trend)
On a positive note there has been quite a big improvement in the reduction in use of permitted extensions beyond 20 working days to consider: 2006: 676 during Q1, 605 during Q2 and 473 during Q3). The DCA was pressed to monitor and add this data to the reports and it may be that the monitoring process has encouraged fairer use of the permitted extension and only when necessary. Though it is worth noting that 20% of the extensions during 2006 were for 40 days or more. In the 2005-2006 ICO annual report the Commissioner notes: "There are particular problems where time is taken to consider public interest considerations or carry out an internal review. A maximum of two months for each stage should be quite long enough in most cases". I would suggest there is still room for improvement.
Depts of State seem to faring worse at the ICO: Percentage of appeals where initial handling was upheld in full: Depts of state: 67% other moniored bodies: 91%
Departments of State reported receiving slightly over 4,100 “non-routine” information requests during the third quarter of 2006 (Q3). Other monitored bodies received around 3,500 requests. These totals include 150 requests handled under the amended Environmental Information Regulations (EIRs).
During Q3 of 2006, 93 per cent of all monitored bodies’ requests (excluding those “on hold” or lapsed) were “in time”, in that they were processed within the statutory deadline or were subject to a permitted deadline extension.
Of all “resolvable” requests received during Q3 of 2006, 61 per cent were granted in full. Of the remaining requests, 14 per cent of the total were withheld in part, 19 per cent were withheld in full, and the remaining 6 per cent had not yet received a substantive response.
In the first, second and third quarters of 2006, monitored bodies had a cumulative total of 853 requests referred for Internal Review. Of the 629 Internal Reviews with a known outcome at the time of monitoring, 75 per cent resulted in the request’s initial handling being upheld in full.
Martin at Open Secrets has also added some comment about the stats.