Sussex Police cites budget cuts as cause for poor FOI record as data watchdog puts force under scrutiny (From The Argus)
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Sussex Police cites budget cuts as cause for poor FOI record as data watchdog puts force under scrutiny
Sussex Police is under scrutiny by the data watchdog after complaints about its lacklustre response times to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.
The force has been identified by the Information Commissioners’ Office (ICO) as having a poor record with FOI response times, along with the Home Office and South Tyneside Council.
Now all three authorities will be scrutinised for three months by the ICO.
Under the act, a public authority must respond to a FOI request within 20 working days.
It was introduced to improve transparency of public sector organisations – allowing anyone to request recorded information.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said: "The Government has made a clear commitment towards making the UK's public sector one of the most transparent in the world.
"Responding to FOI requests within the time limit of 20 working days is an important means of achieving this objective.
"We hope that these authorities can make the improvements the public has a right to expect. We should not have to order authorities to respond to requests in time."
The ICO will closely scrutinise Sussex Police over the next three months, including an examination into all its responses to FOI requests received between July 1 and September 30.
The force has been warned that failure to show signs of improvement may result in enforcement action.
Alan Ladley, Sussex Police’s information manager, said budget cuts made balancing the staffing needs of different departments “difficult.”
He said: “We are aware that the demands upon the small team that manages the growing number of Freedom of Information requests have led to a reduction in service and on a number of occasions the force has not been able to comply with the statutory time limit.
“At a time when we have had to make enormous cuts to the Sussex Police budget, it is difficult to balance the staffing needs of all departments, but we welcome the ICO's oversight of our FOI service and recognise the need for improvement.
“All areas of the force have been advised of the necessity for timely responses when requested by the FOI team and we hope that over the next few months we will see a marked improvement in our service.”
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