RESPONSES to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests “may be much slower than usual or not at all,” during the coronavirus pandemic, Monmouthshire council has said.

Under the Freedom of Information act any member of the public can request information from a public body - such as councils, health boards and governments - with the organisation required by law to respond within 20 working days.

However, many councils in Wales and across the UK have scaled back their FOI operations in order to focus on front-line services during the coronavirus outbreak.


As a result, Monmouthshire County Council has said responses to requests may be delayed - and some may not receive responses at all.

On the website WhatDoTheyKnow, through which FOI requests can be submitted and viewed, Monmouthshire council has said that its ability to respond will be limited during the coronavirus pandemic.

The council said: “During the pandemic we know that we won’t be able to respond to requests in the normal way and will need to prioritise other services and adapt our usual approach during this extraordinary period.

“Whilst Monmouthshire will try to get a response out, you will understand that existing or future requests may be much slower than usual or not at all.

“We have contacted the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) who have stated that they understand that resources, whether they are financial or people, might be diverted away from usual compliance or information governance work.

“They won’t penalise organisations that they know need to re-organise workloads.”

A spokesman for the IOC said: “The ICO recognises the unprecedented challenges all are facing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Whilst we can’t extend statutory timescales, we will not be penalising public authorities for prioritising other areas or adapting their usual approach during this extraordinary period.

“We are a reasonable and pragmatic regulator, one that does not operate in isolation from matters of serious public concern.

“When assessing a complaint brought to us during this period, we will take into account the compelling public interest in the current health emergency.”

Newport City Council and Caerphilly County Borough Council have also said that there could be delays in responding to FOIs.

Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent councils have been contacted for comment.