Refusals of FOI requests at record levels as government discloses less and less information

A major new report has found refusals of Freedom of Information requests are at record levels.

According to the Institute for Government (IfG) think tank government departments refused to give any information in response to almost half (45 per cent) of FOI requests in the first quarter of 2018.

Analysis of the data shows the first three quarters of 2018 had the highest proportion of requests withheld in part or in full – more than half – since the introduction of FoI in 2005.

The Whitehall Monitor report, released last week, suggested reasons for the record level of refusals could include “a lack of political support for FoI” as well as departments being swamped with requests.

In addition, “withholding rates may be growing because data is increasingly already available to the public”.

That could mean FoI requests are seeking more sensitive information which government has legitimate reasons to withhold.

Requests can be refused under 23 different exemptions. These range from needing to safeguard national security to protecting personal information.

In addition, the law does not require information to be provided if it would cost more than £600 to do so.

The Cabinet Office said: “The government’s commitment to transparency means we are now publishing more data than ever before.

“As we do so, taxpayers will expect us to consider a range of factors including cost-effectiveness and protecting national security.”

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