Lib Dems demand Surrey County Council does better on data protection and freedom of information

August 31, 2021 7:32 PM

The Lib Dems have challenged Surrey County Council over failures to answer data protection and freedom of information requests from local residents within legal time limits.

Will ForsterDuring the last Cabinet meeting, Lib Dem Group Leader Will Forster asked how many enquiries were not responded to in the required time.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation, public sector organisations must supply information they held about an individual following within three months at the latest of a request. However, Surrey County Council took longer than they should 42% of the time, and the current longest running request is 476 days old.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, people can ask public sector groups for information they hold as long as it is not commercially sensitive or for personal information about someone else. These requests should be responded to within 20 working days, but this can be extended to 40 working days in certain circumstances. The Council went beyond the deadline in 12% of cases and one request took 208 days.

Lib Dem Group Leader on Surrey County Council, Councillor Will Forster, said:

"Surrey County Council must respond to all data protection and freedom of information responses within the legal timeline. Taking 476 days to reply to a data protection enquiry and 208 days to reply to a freedom of information request is not acceptable. The County Council needs to be more open and transparent."

"As well as being the right thing to do, responding to residents' enquiries in a timely also removes the risk of being fined by the Information Commissioner. If the Council fails to comply with its obligations, the Information Commissioner can impose heavy fines which ultimately will be paid by Council Taxpayers and take resources from important services."

"Last year, Surrey paid out £400,000 in pothole compensation and they run the risk of being fined for not replying to data protection requests. The Council needs to get things right first-time and spent taxpayers money wisely."