Councillors raise concerns over ‘expensive’ Freedom of Information requests

News from the Boston Standard, Lincolnshire: bostonstandard.co.uk, on Twitter @standardboston
News from the Boston Standard, Lincolnshire: bostonstandard.co.uk, on Twitter @standardboston

Senior councillors have raised concerns at having to answer too many requests for information.

It was revealed during Boston Borough Council’s cabinet meeting today (Wednesday) that the council received 128 Freedom of Information requests between October 2012 to December 2012 an increase of 37 from 91 the previous year.

Councillor Raymond Singleton-McGuire said the council is trying to deal with requests as efficiently as possible and pointed to the fact it took an average of 9.5 days to respond to requests this quarter, with only one not responded to within the statutory time limit.

However, Coun Derek Richmond said he felt it was a big concern.

“It’s costing us a lot of money,” he said.

“Whilst people have a right to this information, it is often just some information..

“It’s just a search for them. The tax payers are paying for that.”

Councillors then laughed as Coun Singleton-McGuire said he had written to local Government minister Eric Pickles to ask for money.

He said Mr Pickles had passed on his request to the minister of justice.

Coun Mike Gilbert said he thought the council would have to ‘live with FOIs’ and asked if FOI requests could be collated and put on the website.

Chief executive Richard Harbord said the requests were ‘disparate and scattered’ and some were ‘not the sort of things we put on the website’.

He said: “There are a lot, they’re very difficult and therefore time consuming. They’re not really general information and if they are we point them to the right information.

“Some of the information you wouldn’t want to be general information.”

Another council officer added that even if they did publish it, with repeated requests they would still have to acknowledge and respond to them.

Council leader Peter Bedford added that he and Mr Harbord were thinking of taking the issues to their Local Government Association to find out what information can be ‘legitimately asked for’.