Birmingham City Council has been rapped for failing to respond to requests for information in time.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is in talks with the local authority after it failed to convince the office it had “a clear and credible plan” over its obligations under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
Birmingham Council was, along with Wolverhampton and Bromsgrove councils, among 33 public authorities monitored by the ICO for three months from October last year over concerns their FOI response times weren’t within the statutory time frame of 20 working days.
While no action was deemed necessary for Bromsgrove, Wolverhampton has been ordered to sign an undertaking to improve its performance and “regulatory action” is in store for Birmingham. The Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Defence are in the same position.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said: “I am delighted that over two thirds of the authorities we monitored have managed to overcome their problems.
“However, the remaining authorities have not done enough to convince us that they have a clear and credible plan for getting back on track. Over the next four weeks, we shall be discussing appropriate next steps with them.”
A Birmingham Council spokesman said the authority fielded 1,173 FOI requests last year and a further 391 the first three months of this year. And currently, she added, only 15 were awaiting response outside the legal time frame.
“We do recognise where requests are overdue they need to be dealt with and we have a clear commitment to ensuring compliance,” she said.
“We estimate it cost nearly £800,000 to respond to 1,072 requests in 2009,” she added.
Wolverhampton Council’s assistant chief executive, Joanne Lancaster, said: “We’re totally committed to the values of the FOI Act and recently concluded an internal review. Our findings have already led to improved monitoring.”
The ICO has started monitoring a new batch of 18 public authorities, none of which are in the West Midlands.