“Culture of Secrecy” rules in Welsh Government and Councils

Timely and fully disclosed Freedom of Information (FoI) responses from Welsh public bodies are on the decline and are reaching unacceptable and unlawful levels.

Welsh Conservatives have uncovered statistics revealing public bodies are failing to meet their legal obligation to respond to FoI requests within 20 working days.

The national average had dropped from 84% to 83% - that’s over 4,300 requests not meeting the statutory requirement.

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board (UHB) only answered 51% of responses within this timescale, a huge 38% drop on the previous year.

Other poorly performing public bodies include Conwy Council (72%), Hywel Dda UHB (71%), Neath Port Talbot Council (68%), and Powys Health Board (53%).

Public bodies are also gaining a reputation for failing to give requesters full disclosure: out of 999 requests received by the Welsh Government in 2017/18, just 38% were replied to fully – an 8% drop from the previous year. 

This is 32% below the 2017/18 average of 70% full disclosures for public bodies – it was 71% the previous year, suggesting a negative trend.

The top five most opaque public bodies were the Labour-led councils of Flintshire which had a meagre 34% full disclosure rate, and Cardiff (53%); the Labour-led Welsh Government (38%); Cardiff and Vale UHB (45%), and Plaid-led Carmarthenshire Council (50%).

A request for these statistics was made to the Welsh Government, the 22 councils, and seven health boards in Wales. Rhondda Cynon Taf and the Vale of Glamorgan Councils, and Aneurin Bevan UHB did not respond.

Welsh Conservative and Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Local Government Janet Finch-Saunders AM said:

“These figures make clear that compliance to the Act does not extend beyond lip service and that public services are not sufficiently staffed.

“The purpose of the FoI Act is to ensure that citizens can hold their governments to account, but when we so many requests not being answered in the time demanded from them by legislation, the conclusion must be drawn that these public bodies are breaking the law, frequently, with no improvement in sight.

“Once and for all the Welsh Government needs to stamp out its culture of secrecy and that of local government through the comprehensive change in attitude and practice needed to foster the kind of open government people want and deserve.”


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