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Freedom of Information warning given by watchdog

22 July 2010

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Official bodies that are slow in dealing with requests made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) are likely to face consequences from a watchdog in future, it has been announced.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said organisations that do not answer inquiries within the allotted time, turn down a request without a valid reason or completely ignore applications could face a range of sanctions. The most persistent offenders will be targeted, the body said.

ICO powers include serving an enforcement action, which would require a body to follow a specific course of action or, for the worst offenders, the matter can be reported to Parliament.

Mick Gorrill, ICO head of enforcement, said: “Organisations that take FOIA seriously will have advice and support from the ICO. The public bodies that continually fail to meet their legal obligations will face regulatory action.

“After monitoring authorities’ compliance with the act, we will take action against those that abuse the system.”

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Information Commissioner’s Office