Council fails to respond in time to Freedom of Information requests about fire safety and Olympic Park housing

PUBLISHED: 10:00 08 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:26 08 March 2019

Local authorities 'flout rules' on Fredom of Information. Picture: Ken Mears

Local authorities 'flout rules' on Fredom of Information. Picture: Ken Mears


Some Local authorities failing to comply with the law on Freedom of Information have been accused of delaying responses to requests and missing the legal deadline in as many as four in 10 cases.

Newham Council fails to respond to two Fredom of Information requests in time. Picture: Ken MearsNewham Council fails to respond to two Fredom of Information requests in time. Picture: Ken Mears

Among those criticised in east London in the Freedom of Information campaign’s survey is Newham Council.

Two complaints were made against the town hall by the campaign to the Information Commission.

One was for a request it claimed went unanswered for 136 days, seeking information for the third time about social housing built in the Olympic Park, after the previous two requests were refused. The other was for copies of two fire risk assessments at an address which it said took 84 days to answer instead of the 21-day legal deadline.

“Local authorities face no real repercussions for ignoring requests,” campaign director Maurice Frankel said. “They even ignore the Commission pressing them to respond.

“All that happens is that they are served with a notice after six, nine or 12 months requiring them to provide information, or the reasons for refusing it.”

Complaints were made by the campaign about seven local authorities in London which it said failed to respond to one or more requests, including Newham, Barking & Dagenham and Hackney.

Newham admitted it’s record for responses wasn’t perfect. A town hall statement to the Newham Recorder said: “We aim to respond to all Freedom of Information requests as soon as possible within the 20 working day deadline—but in some cases this is not possible.”

Neighbouring Tower Hamlets, however, improved its response to information requests last year, answering 96 per cent in time.

East London’s local authorities generally have a good record responding to information requests, including Newham, the campaigners acknowledge.

Newham responded to 83pc of its requests in time, but not so good as the 89pc the year before, while Barking & Dagenham managed 93pc last year, Redbridge 92pc and City of London 97pc—but Hackney fell behind with just 66pc.

Newham received 1,858 requests, compared to Tower Hamlets getting 2,319, Hackney 1,954, Redbridge 1,682 and Havering 1,877.

Local authorities should publish quarterly the number of requests going unanswered in time and setting out why they’ve been delayed, the campaign report recommends.

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