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Freedom of information request delays

By Elgan Hearn | Mid Wales | Coronavirus | Published:

Responses to Freedom of Information requests could be delayed according to a council

There could be delays to freedom of information requests with Powys County Council

Powys County Council (PCC) says it has “paused” the processing of Freedom of Information (FOI) Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) 2004 and General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) until “business resumes as normal.”

The authority has contacted everyone who has a current request lodged with them to say that staff might be working in different roles during the pandemic.

Information Compliance officer, Carl Bryden, explained: “As of March 18, the council invoked it’s business continuity plans in response to Covid-19.

“This has seen all non-critical activity of the council being stepped down to focus on business critical activities and for the redeployment and training of staff to fulfil business critical roles.

“It has therefore been determined that all requests made under FOI, EIR and GDPR will be paused until business resumes as normal.

“At a time of national crisis, I am sure you will understand that certain critical work needs to be prioritised, continued and underpinned.”

He said that PCC would contact people who have pending requests when staff return to their normal duties and work re-starts.

Mr Bryden added that the Information Commissioners Officer (ICO) understands that staff are being diverted to other services and is advising the public that they are likely to experience delays over their information requests.

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A spokesperson for the ICO, said: “The ICO recognises the unprecedented challenges all are facing during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We understand that resources, whether they are finances or people, may be diverted away from usual compliance or information rights work.

“Whilst we can’t extend statutory time-scales, we will not be penalising public authorities.

“We are a reasonable and pragmatic regulator, one that does not operate in isolation from matters of serious public concern.

“When assessing a complaint brought to us during this period, we will consider the compelling public interest in the current health emergency."

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 came into force on January 1 2005. The Act gives people the right to access information held by public bodies.

Elgan Hearn

By Elgan Hearn
@ElganPowysLDR

Local Democracy Reporter covering Powys.

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