MORE than a quarter of freedom of information requests sent to Reading Borough Council (RBC) were not responded to in full within the statutory 20-working-day deadline. 

The council received 1,451 freedom of information requests (FOIs) in 2018. Of those 1,451 requests, the council did not respond in full to 380, or 26 per cent, within 20 working days.

Jason Collie, 47, a resident, said: “Failing to comply with the law in one in four cases is not acceptable. 

“Council tax payers don’t get to say to the council ‘I can’t be bothered paying my council tax on time’, so why did the council think it is acceptable to have the same record on FOIs?”

The Freedom of Information Act first came into effect in 2005. It is often used by campaigners and journalists, but anyone is allowed to request information. 

You can request any sort of information from any public body, such as the council, police, or fire service. Although there are some exemptions, public bodies are legally obliged to give you the requested information. 

Mr Collie said: “FOIs are important. In the last 18 months we have uncovered that the council was banking £700,000 a year with the green bin scheme, when it was telling people it only needed to cover £300,000 costs.”

Recently, campaigners also used the FOI Act to uncover controversial details about the sale of the Arthur Hill swimming pool.

A spokesman for RBC said: “The council considers any failure to comply with its statutory duties to be serious. 

“An increase in FOI requests combined with reduced resources in recent years has had an impact on response times, however, the requirement to respond to FOI requests within 20 working days has been reiterated at a senior level within the council. 

“An internal FOI review has also recently been undertaken and a management action plan is being developed which will also contribute to improving response rates. The council will be closely monitoring future FOI response rates.” 

Mr Collie said: “It’s the irony of ironies that we had to use the FOI Act to uncover that the council was failing to comply with the FOI Act in one in four cases.”