Council’s failure to give information is a concern

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You may have noticed a story we ran last week about Portsmouth City Council confirming some incidents in which it lost devices holding personal information about people.

They included the theft of laptop computers and the loss of some paper files.

The revelation was made in a response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act made by the pressure group Big Brother Watch.

Portsmouth’s loss of the data was, of course, worrying, although the number of incidents has to be set against the amount of ways in which information is stored and transported.

Just as worrying, I thought, was the council that stood out like a sore thumb in the survey.

Big Brother Watch had asked for the same information from all local authorities nationwide and one of the very few it listed under ‘No Response’ was Hampshire County Council.

This was, I remind you, the authority that earlier this year was pressing for newspapers and others who make regular Freedom of Information requests to have to pay for the privilege of doing so.

It seems to me that since its introduction, some organisations have taken more proactively the Freedom of Information Act than others. Recently, for instance, West Sussex Police contacted me speedily about an FoI request I had made, requesting information that would enable them to make a quicker and more accurate reply.

Others have got locked into always taking 20 days to respond (the Act says the response should be prompt and take up to 20 working days).

But I’ll agree that a delayed response is better than no response at all.

Given we pay them a lot to give us an efficient service across the board, what went wrong at Hampshire?

Surely they didn’t just lose the information about how much of our information they had lost?