Sunday, 15 November 2015

Charging for Freedom of Information requests.

Denbighshire Council are calling on the government to introduce charging for FOI requests as part of the consultation into the Freedom of Information Act:
The council is suggesting a nominal charge of £20 be made for each request, that the time limit is reduced from 18 to 10 hours and that time spent on redaction should also be taken into account. 
“It is believed that introducing these changes would reduce the burden for public authorities to a more manageable level whilst maintaining the public’s statutory rights of information access, says the report.
The following is a letter which I sent to the Daily Post in reply to the article:
Dear Editor, 
Denbighshire Council want to charge for Freedom of Information requests, (Post, Nov 14th) because council staff spend so much time processing requests. The Council quotes that requests have more than doubled since the act came in; but isn't that to be expected as people adapt to the new legislation. 
As an elected Councillor at Wrexham I have had to resort on many occasions to making FOI requests of my own council and a lot of the time they create work for themselves by jealously guarding the information to the point of pedantry and accessing it is like 'getting blood out of a stone.'

If council's in Wales want to reduce the costs of freedom of information then they should publish more of their information and there should be a presumption in favour of publication rather than "we'll only publish what we have to" which is the situation at present.

Until such time as local Council's do what is right in terms of publication rather than having to do what they have to, then an unchanged Freedom of Information Act is essential to hold public authorities in Wales to account. Any tinkering or weakening of the Act will lead to LESS openness and transparency. 
Regards, 
Councillor Arfon Jones.

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