FOI stats show surge at DWP and dip at MoJ
Quarterly snapshot indicates improved timeliness among departments
The latest quarterly Freedom of Information request figures show a broadly flat level of demand for data from central government departments but they also reveal a roller-coaster changes at some ministries.
Just-published April-to-June statistics put out by the Cabinet Office show that departments and their related bodies received 10,982 FOI requests over the three-month period. Slightly more than two-thirds were made directly to a department of state.
While the figure is a dip of just 49 requests – or 0.4% – on the same quarter in 2016, the reduction is not shared proportionally across all departments.
The Department for Work and Pensions was hit with a 23% increase in the number of FOI requests over the three month period, notching up 1,109 – the highest of any department of state.
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Civil Service World asked DWP what had driven the spike in its quarterly figures. A spokeswoman said the department covered a large amount of policy areas and would not speculate on increased demand for transparency information.
The Ministry of Justice was in second place by volume of requests, with 953 FOI demands. It also had the largest year-on-year decrease in FOI numbers, dropping by 152 compared with the same period in 2016.
The Cabinet Office said that 8,117 – or 74% – of the April-June quarter FOI requests had been potentially resolvable, but that just 3,590 had been granted in full.
It said the remainder had either been fully withheld or withheld in part, mainly because the information being requested was covered by exemptions. A total of 1,100 were not responded to on the grounds of cost.
Of the total number of FOIs received, the Cabinet Office said 492 had yet to be processed.
In terms of timeliness, the Cabinet Office said departments had responded to 92% of requests within stipulated time limits, an improvement on the 89% figure for the same period in 2016.
The Department for International Trade had the lowest proportion of in-time responses, at 77%. It received a total of 65 FOI requests over the period, the figures showed.
Among the monitored bodies included in the statistics, the majority of FOI requests were handled by the Health and Safety Executive (1,222) and the National Archives (737). The HSE figures represented a 7.5% increase; The National Archives' tally was a 0.7% decrease.
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