WhatDoTheyKnow’s Share of Central Government FOI Requests – Q2 2011

The Ministry of Justice have just published their latest quarterly statistics on the handling of Freedom of Information requests by central government bodies.  We’ve crunched the numbers to compare them to the requests made using WhatDoTheyKnow.com

The graph shows our share of FOI requests sent to central Departments of State jumped to 14.6% in the 1st quarter of 2011.

This time round, the top 3 departments were:

  1. Home Office (which includes the UK Border Agency, CRB & Identity & Passport Service) – 254 requests out of 866 – 29%
  2. Department for Education – 81 requests out of 328 – 25%
  3. Department for Communities and Local Government – 59 requests out of 250 – 24%

Many of the WhatDoTheyKnow users contacting the Home Office & UK Border Agency are trying to find out information about their own immigration case.  We regularly receive emails from applicants asking for help, as they have often been waiting months (or even years in some cases) for an official update to their case, often with the UKBA holding on to identity documents or passport.  Applicants then feel they have to resort to making FOI requests. Many of these are auto-replied by this standard FAQ, and applicants don’t receive a personal answer.  The large 29% share of all Home Office requests suggests that the normal contact methods to keep people updated aren’t working or even that their service is simply struggling with demand.  It’s also likely that they don’t consider these types of requests as formal FOI requests, so it is worth noting that we are likely to be slightly overstating the percentage share figures.

Free schools were a popular topic for the Department of Education – 9 out of 81 requests were on this subject, and nearly all were refused on the basis that information would be published at some unspecified date in the future.

To understand the limitations of the data analysis, please see here.

One interesting trend that has been consistently seen is that FOI requests are more frequent in odd-numbered quarters compared to even ones – if you have any ideas why this may be the case, please add them to the comments!

– Communities and Local Government


  1. As WDTK and MoJ count FOI requests very differntly I don’t feel that your comparative data has any real value. The caveats you place on it are fundermental in my view. You’re comparing apples and pears. Guess it makes the website look good though…

  2. Alex Skene (volunteer)

    I’ve done some quick searches & calculations – there were 44 non-FOI requests sent to the Home Office & UKBA in Q1, so if you exclude these, the HO share drops from 29% to 24%, and the overall share is now 14%. None of the other authorities have the same issues, so I would argue that our numbers are fairly comparable to the MoJ, but probably not to the nearest tenth of a percentage point.

    Alex – WhatDoTheyKnow volunteer

  3. I was thinking of all the requests that are refused under s.21 or or not logged as a formal request because the request is sent to the wrong organisation(these would be redirected). There are also quite a few general queries on WDTK and those wouldn’t make it onto an organisation’s FOI logging system eiter. These are only examples off the top of my head but you get the idea…

  4. I have tried twice in the last 3 years to get information as to how many times the Police have been called to the house where I live to high light the problems caused by one tenant over the the duration of my tenancy (24 years) and twice been refused under the data protection Act.The property is council owned and the council has always insisted that the only way they can deal with this situation is nuisance logs from all the people who are affected.The wording “Nuisance” implies that these are “annoyances” and my argument has always been that if the Police are called that these disturbances are already logged and if all of the Police actions were presented en masse there would be a public outcry as to the cost of maintaining this situation. There is also the added costs of other services, Paramedics,repairs to the building and even on one ocassion an armed response unit and the fire service and this is without the cost of the social services or the impact this has on the lives of neighbouring tenants.Interestingly enough even though I described the problem as “Crack house

  5. continued… My society never even picked up on this,admittedly ,I think it was placed in problems “Refuse” but that was because there was no category for crackhouse.So much for that…and just in case anyone does read this let me now state that having met one of the tenants adopted children(now 30’ish) it further highlights the failings of his mothers case. I have never wanted the tenant moved out or on..she has now managed to exceed the age of my younger sister who took her own life but I wonder for how much longer…