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Friday, October 01, 2010

TfL being Slow with Information Requests

I had expected my first attempt to guest blog for AnnieMole to be about the upcoming tube strike, but this, slightly obscure issue caught my eye this morning...


Transport for London has been put on a naughty list by the UK's doughty defender of our rights, the Information Commissioner.

As TfL is a public body, it is required by the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) to reply within 20 working day to any request for information, although exemptions can be agreed to if the information is particularly difficult to get at.

In a statement issued this morning, the ICO said that it will put organisations onto its watch list if it has had at least six complaints within the past six months; or one request was particularly badly dealt with; or it appears that less than 85% of requests are receiving a response within the appropriate timescales - which is particularly applied to organisations that publish data about timeliness of their service.

The ICO will now be beaming its Sauron like eye at TfL - amongst others - over the next few months for being rather tardy when replying to such requests.

Sadly for an information organisation, the "naughty list" doesn't offer any information as to why TfL has been slapped on the wrist. The full list is available on this pdf file.

UK - London - Westminster: Big Ben
TfL and Parliament - Photo by Wally Gobetz

Actually, it surprises me that TfL would be put on such a list, as I once worked for a company that submitted a bid to run some of their mobile services and the paperwork went into quite considerable detail about what information in our bid documents would be released if someone filed a request with them.

Then again, if you have ever struggled to find out why the train you are on for your daily commute hasn't moved for the past five minutes, maybe you are less surprised?

The What Do They Know website keeps a self-selecting list of FOI requests, along with the responses. Most of the stuff is quite dull or technical, but you can sometimes glean the odd nugget of juicy gossip or get a feeling for a protest that is about to be launched by some local campaign group.

You can also sometimes shake your head in slight bewilderment at some of the rather strange questions asked and maybe feel a bit sorry for the staff having to deal with them.

I've submitted the occasional FOI request in the past, although never to TfL. I doubt they keep an accurate count on their mouse population anyway!

Have you ever tried to make use of the Freedom of Information act?

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