'Victory for democracy' as council to publish FOI data

Sheffield City Council is now to publish data on FOI requests from the end of this week following pressure from the Liberal Democrat group.

Cllr. Martin Smith has been requesting this data and putting pressure on the council by tabling a motion at the November full council meeting (4/11/15) calling on the council to publish data relating to FOI requests online. We have now been told that this data will be made available by the end of the week and will be regularly updated. Unlike other Councils, such as Leeds, Sheffield City Council does not already publish FOI data on a regular basis including the number of requests received and refused.

Data obtained by the Sheffield Liberal Democrats shows that Sheffield City Council Sheffield City Council issued refusals on, either wholly or partially, 22% of FOI requests in 14/15, compared to 11% by Bristol City Council and 18% by both Leeds City Council and Manchester City Council.

Latest figures from this month shows a recent spike in refusals, the percentage refused (full or partial) has gone up significantly.  It was over 50% in August.  The average for the last six months is 32%.

This may be partly due to the council’s blanket refusal to answer tree-related FOI requests, many from people who have never previously made a request under the Freedom of Information Act, instead branding the question topic as ‘vexatious’.

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Cllr. Martin Smith (pictured) said

‘This news is a victory for democracy. Finally the council are going to be open and honest about the amount of Freedom of Information requests they refuse. Hopefully this information being open for public scrutiny will mean they are more likely to answer FOIs’

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