Commissioner backlog

A recent breakdown of the Commissioner’s backlog was given 25 July 2006 in answer to a written question in Parliament:

Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire, Conservative)
To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to the answer of 11 July 2006, Official Report, column 1732W, on Freedom of Information, how many complaints (a) are outstanding and (b) have been outstanding for more than (i) three months, (ii) six months and (iii) over six months.

Harriet Harman (Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs)

The information requested has been provided by the Information Commissioner.

(a) On 30 June 2006 1,204 FOI complaints were outstanding.

(b) The Information Commissioner’s Office measures processing times in terms of calendar dates rather than months.

(i) Of the 1,204 complaints outstanding on 30 June 2006 946 had been outstanding for more than 90 days.

(ii) Of the 1,204 complaints outstanding on 30 June 2006 688 had been outstanding for more than 180 days.

(iii) The answer to (iii) is the same as the answer to (ii).

I myself have four appeals that have been in the queue for more than a year. Today I spoke to a caseworker for one of my complaints. I asked her for a status report on my outstanding cases.

  • One from February 2005 against the Attorney General had been closed (without my knowledge and despite being unresolved)
  • One had been allocated to the wrong team
  • One had not yet been assigned to an investigator despite being identical to another request where the investigation was almost complete.
  • One, filed in June 2005 had only just been assigned a caseworker!

3 Responses to “Commissioner backlog”

  1. Peter HOAR says:

    I have just received a progress letter from the ICO, for my FS 500 86109 – August 13th 2005 Part of my peevish reply went roughly as follows …

    1. “Notwithstanding the explanation given in your earlier letter … I wish to record my disappointment that the ICO has allowed the practice of queue jumping for what appears to be a very considerable number of complaints. We are not all journalists and we do not all seek or enjoy the support of our MPs. It was clearly silly of me to assume that all cases would be treated in strict order of receipt. I did not make my request or complaint for fun or impersonal curiosity, nor as an abstract part of my job. The issues involved in my case have caused considerable personal difficulty in trying to close a long-running dispute with the Council … I note that for “Exemption” cases requiring full investigation, 13 out of 46 Decision Notices published for July 2006, and 14 out of 32 for June, were complaints “junior” to mine. Likewise, for 11 out of 42 Appeals currently listed with the Information Tribunal.

    2. Secondly you stated – “ Indeed, since the Act came into force the level of complaints has exceeded the volumes projected.” That statement simply is not true. I refer to the 2004 “Forecast of UK Commissioner’s caseload 2005-2009” commissioned by the ICO from UCL, and to HC991 – Constitutional Affairs Committee – “Freedom of Information – One Year on.” Dated 28 June 2006 – Report – Caseload Para 51 with Oral Evidence Questions 11 to 15. In the UCL report, the forecast band for 2005 was 1250 to 3000. HC991 quoted 1200 to 3000. The actual number of complaints received by the ICO in Calendar 2005 was quoted as 2385 – HC991 Para 51 – confirmed from your own Caselist – 2382 for the same period. The actual number of cases received was therefore well within, and little more than the middle of the forecast band. It is difficult to see how you can reasonably claim that the level of complaints “exceeded the volumes projected” when clearly from the record, it did not. I hope you did not think I would not know or trouble to find out

    3. Just to show there is no hard feeling, I am enclosing a First Birthday Card
    for my complaint.” – Letter ends.

    NB. Nothing against Journalists ! Yours, Peter HOAR

  2. Rod says:

    My FOI Complaint (Ref. FS50070878) against the Department of Health has now been with the Information Commisioner for 18 months – is this a record?

  3. heather says:

    Sadly, I don’t think so. My request against the House of Commons for the names of MPs’ staff went in April 2005 and was just decided last week. Several journalists I know still have outstanding cases from Spring 2005. I would suggest asking the Commissioner for 28-day status reports on your case, as laid out in the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Commissioner and Department of Constitutional Affairs.
    Regards,
    Heather

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