A CHARD councillor is at the centre of new figures showing Somerset County Council’s delay in responding to Freedom of Information Act requests.

Public bodies and government departments are required to respond to requests within 20 working days.

The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends 75% of inquiries should get a response within 20 days, but Somerset County Council said it had only reached a figure of 65%.

Cllr Nigel Pearson, an independent county councillor for Chard North, said he asked the council for information on emails on the sale of county farms over the last three years.

He also asked for emails relating to the sale of care homes over the last six months when he sent the request on May 23.

Cllr Pearson said: “After I sent the request, I spoke to an officer in June who said they were aware of it and they knew it was sensitive information so I don’t know why they did not just do it. It could not have taken all this time and I still don’t have an answer yet.”

Somerset County Council said requests were for very detailed levels of information including email chains between multiple recipients.

But Cllr Pearson said he would like to see the council prioritising the requests.

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He added: “The thing about the county farms is something they should be doing straight away.”

But the council said it was ‘committed to transparency’ and was ‘working hard’ to increase its performance.

They said they had hired another member of staff to cope.

A spokesman for Somerset County Council said: “We have seen a huge increase in requests for information – up from 862 in 2012 to 1,095 in 2013. Up until the end of June this year we had already received 741 requests.

“It must be remembered that staff running our services also have important day jobs to do. For example, when a social worker is completing an information request they are not looking after a vulnerable child or adult. We would ask that requesters bear this in mind and be assured that we will respond as soon as we can.”