Monday, 15 October 2012

Why are FoI's so expensive?

The BBC, have reported that Local authorities say they are struggling with the number of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests which have more than doubled since 2005.

They report that ......

"The warning comes from the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) which says councils cannot afford to spend lots of money on "unnecessary" queries.
The number has risen from 3,530 in 2005 to 9,304 last year, according to figures obtained by BBC Wales.
Requests can be made to any publicly funded body in the UK.
They are frequently used by journalists, businesses and politicians to obtain information which is not already publicly available, although any member of the public can make a request".
 BBC Radio Wales 14 October 2012
They continue...... 
 "Steve Thomas, chief executive of the WLGA, said with cuts in public expenditure councils could not afford to spend huge amounts of money on "unnecessary" FoIs.
"Every pound and every shilling is required at the moment to push into frontline services," he said.
"I'm afraid that FoIs, particularly in the way they're coming in and the weight they're coming in, are in some areas detracting from frontline services."
Merthyr council received the most requests per head of the population in Wales.
Officers say they used to get around 10 per month but the number has risen to around 60 in recent years.
They could have spent as much as £160,000 last year answering the queries - equivalent to the cost of around seven newly qualified teachers".
BBC Radio Wales 14 October 2012

Its always Qualified Teachers and not new perks like  expensive motors for the council leaders that are claimed to be lost.

May be I should send in a request asking ."Why FOI are so expensive Under the Freedom of Information Act?" According to the BBC, each request should not cost more than £600 for central government to answer and should be less than £450 for other public authorities.A study by University College London estimated the average cost of an FoI request to be £293.

Can it be that FOI cost are estimated on the same league as your Bank who charge us £20 for a letter saying we are overdrawn claiming administration cost for 5 minutes work.

Could it be that Councils are not recording Data Properly. In the IT age after all it should be not difficult to retrive probably stored data from the Councils computer storage.

But Councils can also help themselves by allowing to see more information on their websites instead of hiding it away . Though this may have to be independently monitored to ensure they don't present figures on a similar line to the local "Pravda on the Rates".

I suspect this a case of our Councils believing the public should not know to much about our their local authority is run and are using this simply as an excuse to limit our queries.

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