Public Sector: Councils 'fail to comply with FOI'

A fifth of councils are failing to meet their duties under the Freedom of Information Act, according to a survey.

The finding comes five months after the act came into effect - at the end of last year, the Office of the Information Commissioner warned that the public sector was not sufficiently prepared for the legislation (PRWeek, 26 November 2004).

Local government specialist Verve Communications asked 210 councils whether they had produced a comms audit or strategy. To positive replies, a copy was requested - and 19 per cent failed to deliver.

Verve managing director Lorraine Langham said the results show that councils are not taking their information provision responsibilities seriously enough.

The best performers in the survey were Scottish unitary authorities, with a 100 per cent return rate. Welsh unitaries, on the other hand, scored the lowest, with 77 per cent failing to produce the requested documents.

London boroughs also proved difficult, with nearly 40 per cent failing to provide the information. Close on their heels were English unitary councils (32 per cent), county councils (27 per cent), metropolitan councils (26 per cent) and district councils (22 per cent).

Nearly a quarter of councils targeted by Verve had no comms strategy - a recommendation made by the Audit Commission in 1999.

Nearly half revealed they had never conducted an audit of their communications to assess the effectiveness of the function.

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