The incoming Information Commissioner will face a serious challenge in getting on top of the ICO’s increased backlog of FOI cases.
The ICO currently has 2,317 open complaints under the Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations, according to the latest database of their open casework which I have obtained from them.
It shows 79 cases which the ICO has already taken over a year to process. Of these, nine concern complaints about the Cabinet Office and six about the Foreign Office, including several relating to the FOI exemption for security bodies.
The oldest case goes back over two years and involves Transport for London and the use of the cost limit exemption.
The ICO states this dataset for open casework can’t be directly compared to the active FOI caseload obtained from May by the Campaign for Freedom of Information, which listed 1,748 open complaints. The new dataset includes various cases not in that one, including EIR complaints, and also cases where the ICO is awaiting further information before launching an investigation – according to the ICO there is a “subtle difference” between what it calls its “active caseload” and its “open casework”.
The ICO says: “We have plans in place to address the rise in work over the coming financial year, particularly as the new staff we have recently recruited complete their training and ways of working return to normal.”