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Council fails at info requests.

Byline: stephen.temlett

Council is failing to handle Freedom of Information requests on time.

Figures for 2018/19 show the council has only responded to 66 per cent of FOIs by the 20 day target. The authority has placed a target of 94 per cent for dealing with all requests and only half of those sent to the economy, environment and infrastructure department were answered on time.

In 2017 588 FOIs were submitted but in the first half of 2018 the council received 707. North West Community Campus had an "impact" on the number sent and the FOI team had two members of staff on long term absence.

On November 13 the Standard submitted an FOI to the council regarding NWCC and only received a reply on January 11, well over the 20 days authorities have to respond by.

One way the council will try to improve it's response appears to be by using as many exemptions as possible and creating an archive of previous requests.

The figures will be discussed at Friday's policy and resources committee.

Rhona Lewis, head of legal and democratic services, will tell members: "A review has taken place of structure and staffing and what needs to be done both by the corporate services team but also by departments to improve performance.

"There needs to be a greater emphasis given to meeting FOI timescales and the quality of the responses received from departments so they come fit and ready to be sent to the requester. This will improve timescales.

"In addition, we need to get smarter at using statutory exemptions and ensuring we only use resources answering what we are required to.

"Work has also been undertaken to analyse common requests and we will be putting this on the web so that we do not have to answer numerous requests for the same information.

"Since some of these issues have been flagged to staff, we have already seen an improvement for the next reporting period. The team has kept in contact with the information Commissioner. They are aware of the issues and what we are doing to address them."

" Members will be asked to scrutinise the information andHeadquarters Council offices in English Street, Dumfries

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Publication:Dumfries and Galloway Standard (Dumfriesshire, Scotland)
Date:Jan 29, 2019
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