A MERSEYSIDE council is to come under closer scrutiny over its response to freedom of information requests.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has included Wirral council along with three government departments in highlighting failures to respond within legal time frames.
They will be monitored from January 1 to March 31 2013 and if they do not improve could face further sanctions.
Along with Wirral council, the others affected are the department for education, department for work and pensions and the office of the first minister and deputy first minister.
Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, said: "It is particularly disappointing to see that the advances previously made by the department for education, the department for work and pensions, and Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council – which were introduced following concerns after previous rounds of monitoring – have not been continued.
"This is not good enough and we expect these authorities to take the necessary measures to ensure that they are meeting their obligations under the Freedom of Information Act.
A Wirral council spokesman said: "Whilst we are disappointed that we have not maintained progress in dealing with the many FOI requests we receive – nearly 1,300 last year – we remain committed to openness and transparency.
"As such, we welcome the Information Commissioner’s offer of support and advice, and will work with his officers to ensure we meet the required standards."
Many requests have been made through the whatdotheyknow. com specialist Freedom of Information website.
According to this site Wirral council had received 918 requests, almost as many as the BBC on 1,089. The department of health had 1,044 requests and the ministry of defence had 1,220 requests via the website, while the department for work and pensions received 2,371 requests.
According to the ICO the authorities were selected because they failed to respond to 85% of FOI requests within the time limit of 20 working days or had exceeded the time limit by a significant margin.
Wirral revealed that almost a fifth of freedom of information requests were from one person.
The unnamed individual made 245 requests –19% of the total – in 12 months, dwarfing even the second most prolific requester, who made 22.
The figures were revealed in a report to the council’s ruling cabinet, which said Wirral receives a "disproportionately higher amount of enquiries" compared other councils of a similar size.
The report added: "FOI requests continue to rise, particularly when anything controversial appears in the local press; 340 requests were received in the first quarter of 2011/12."