Improved turnaround in 2020/21 due to less information requests

THE number of requests for information from Powys County Council, has dropped during the last year.

Generic Llandrindod Wells, PCC County Hall picture by Elgan Hearn
Generic Llandrindod Wells, PCC County Hall picture by Elgan Hearn

This does mean that the turnaround of request in the time limit of 20 working days has dramatically improved.

At the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, July 13, councillors will receive the annual information governance report for 2020/21.

The report shows that the number of requests using the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) 2000, Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) 2004 and Subject Access Requests (SAR) where people ask for data held by the council on themselves, has dropped to 1000.

In 2019/20 the number of requests was 1295 and 1420 in 2018/19.

The Information Commissioner expects that 90 per cent of the requests are completed in the legal timescale and the report shows that of 143 EIR requests 94 per cent were completed in time, which is 36 per cent up on 2019/20.

Compliance rates for FOI have also improved by 17 per cent on last year and are up to 86 per cent for the 789 requests processed.

SAR completed within the timescale has also rocketed up by 28 per cent and was 87 per cent for the 68 requests the council received.

All in all. this gives Powys a compliance rate of 85 per cent which is up 20 per cent on last year.

The report by professional lead data protection office Helen Dolman explains that the improved performance is down to less requests and that the department has recruited staff to fill empty jobs they had.

Ms Dolman, said: “The decrease can be attributed to Covid-19, and requesters understanding the additional burdens placed on public authorities.”

She also pointed out that the Information Commissioner took a “pragmatic approach” during the pandemic allowing for greater flexibility on timescales.

In the report, it is claimed that the compliance rate could have been as high as 97 per cent.

Reasons given for the department not hitting targets include delays from other council departments, the impact of covid and due to “large complex requests” requiring inspections, redaction of information or needing a decision to be made on applying exemptions which limits the amount information allowed to be released.

This year, the report adds that changes to the “roles, grades and numbers” of the Information Compliance Teams is supposed to take place.

This is due to the need to provide budget savings and the report adds that its “impact will need to be monitored.”

The report is due for noting by the cabinet.

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