Backlog of Freedom of Information requests piles up at Sheffield Council
Sheffield Council has 175 outstanding Freedom of Information requests due to a backlog built up during the pandemic.
Coun Paul Turpin raised the issue and discovered the numbers were outstanding as of March 25, 2021.
Deputy Council Leader Terry Fox said Covid had had “a significant and material impact” on the council’s ability to respond to FOIs within normal timescales this financial year.
He said: “Contributing factors include the inability to access paper records due to mandatory home working and strict protocols to enter council buildings safely.
“Work has been re-prioritisation and there’s been a temporary deployment of the Information Management Team on critical Covid activity – this applies similarly to all the council services that might be required to provide information for FOI responses.
“We have been focusing on ensuring that vital data sharing – to support infection testing and vaccinations programmes – could happen securely and legally.”
Coun Fox said the council’s approach to FOIs during the pandemic had been consistent with guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
He added the “importance of timely FOI responses” was recognised and work was underway to address the current backlog.
Coun Turpin also asked how many times the ICO had ruled against Sheffield Council in the last three years.
Coun Fox said it was important to understand how the ICO measured complaints as sometimes there were exemptions which meant some information did not have to be disclosed.
“Between April 1, 2018 and March 25, 2021, the ICO made a decision about 19 separate complaints about how the council applied exemptions to information requests.
“The ICO upheld two requester’s complaints fully and partly upheld six requester’s complaints. It did not uphold 11 requester’s complaints.”
“In the past three years, 5,738 information requests were received by the council. Therefore, in that period between 2018 and 2021, the upheld or partly upheld complaints equate to around 0.1 per cent of the total requests received.”