The Information Commissioner’s Office has announced Wirral Council is to be monitored for three months over concerns about the "timeliness" of its responses to Freedom Of Information requests.

The announcement today could hardly be less "timely" for Wirral as only on Tuesday this week, one of its own councillors said he was reporting the authority to the commission for "lying" over an FOI request.

A statement by UK Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said Wirral was selected for monitoring as it had failed to respond to 85% of FOI requests within the time limit of 20 working days and had exceeded the limit "by a significant margin on numerous occasions."

Wirral is one of only four public bodies which will be subjected to the ICO's scrutiny.

Commissioner Graham said: "Three of the authorities have been the subject of a number of complaints to the ICO over the timeliness of their responses, while the performance statistics for all requests received during 2011 show that only just over half were answered on time, with further delays encountered this year.

 “We will monitor the authorities named today for three months, and may take further action after this monitoring period has expired if we don’t see the necessary improvements in each authority's standard of compliance.

"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.

"We will provide support and advice where we can, but reserve the right to take further action if they fail to step up to the mark.”

A demand for a public apology from the council for apparently misleading in an FOI response was made by Cllr Chris Blakeley this week.

His call came after it emerged the authority's reply to the request - asking for costs associated with a video it commissioned as part of the "What Realy Matters" budget cuts consulation - revealed less than half the true amount.

The reply went on to say no other funding was spent on the video project. But this also turned out to be untrue.

Councillor Blakeley stormed: "To say 'Wirral Council can confirm no other funding was spent on contracts such as this' is a lie.

"This is not about money. It's about honesty."

The council's chief executive, Graham Burgess, has subsequently emailed Cllr Blakeley saying no public apology is to be issued and no further action taken over the issue.

Councillor Blakeley said he intends to pursue the matter until a public apology is made.

He has sent a report  to the commission asking it to conduct an investigation.

A council spaokesman said: " While we are disappointed that we have not maintained progress in dealing with the many FOI requests we receive – nearly 1,300 last year, more than the BBC – 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.”

The ICO will monitor the council between January 1 and March 31.

The Information Commissioner’s Office is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest and "promote openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals."

It can conduct audits to check organisations are complying with the law and has the power, in extreme cases, to force them to pay up to £500,000 for serious breaches and to prosecute those who commit criminal offences.