Islington Council missed deadlines on one in four FOIs in 2014

Islington Town Hall

Islington Town Hall - Credit: Archant

Officers struggling to keep up as nearly 2,000 queries made in 2014

Terry Stacy

Terry Stacy - Credit: Archant

Islington Council failed to respond in time to more than one in four Freedom of Information (FOI) requests last year.

Cllr Andy Hull

Cllr Andy Hull - Credit: Archant

The town hall took longer than the 20-day legal requirement for requests made under the FOI Act 2000 to respond on 556 of 1,900 occasions.

After their almost complete victory in May last year Islington Labour promised greater transparency when faced with claims that having just one opposition member on the council would lead to very little scrutiny.

Former Islington Council leader Terry Stacy, who was disposed as leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition last year, said: “If they can’t turn around Freedom of Information requests, how are they being more transparent?

“The council has promised greater scrutiny but this shows they’re not taking it seriously.”

The council has seen a steady rise in FOI requests since 2011, when they received 1,426 – almost 500 less than in 2014.

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Neighbouring boroughs received fewer requests than Islington in 2014, with Hackney receiving 1,750 and Haringey 1,603.

Current council opposition, the Green Party’s Caroline Russell, said: “With nearly 2,000 requests coming in over the year, I can see that it may be hard for officers to keep up with responses.

“However, transparency is crucial with such a large majority for one party on the council.

“The council should always aim for maximum access to information so that people don’t have to resort to FOI requests in the first place.”

The council said that due to the number of requests received and the lack of central governement funding it was difficult to respond to all FOI requests within the time limit.

Andy Hull, Islington Council’s executive member for finance and performance, said: “We answer the vast majority of Freedom of Information requests within 20 days.

“Some requests are complex and take a lot of staff time to address. It’s very important that responses are accurate and thorough, as well as prompt.

“Officers have to handle FOI requests in addition to their day-to-day work. So I would urge the government to give councils the funding they need to pay for the escalating costs of responding to FOI requests.”