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Bonkers Blog March 2011

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24 March (Part 3) - Freedom of Information requests (FOI)

Bexley council doesn’t like FOIs. Anything that makes them tell the truth worries them. We have seen councillor Campbell (St. Mary’s, £22,650) planning to pillory people who make FOI requests and councillor Betts (Falconwood & Welling, £13,173) backing him a few months later. Not that Bexley council always tell the truth even with an FOI as the Bexleyheath Chronicle revealed last month.

Last night the council met to discuss the FOI issue. During the five months September 2010 to January 2011 the council received 395 FOI requests costing a total of £20,179 to answer at a calculated staff cost of £10 per 15 minutes. That’s an average of £51 each though in practice most were about £30 each with a few expensive ones pushing up the average. The report compiles the costs associated with anyone who may have made more than four FOI requests but it is not clear what the council plans to do or can do about FOIs. I do have a suggestion though which might help contain costs. Encourage openness and transparency and tell the truth at all times. But as a senior Tory told me the other day “they are never going to do that so keep on blogging!”

If you are surprised at the stated staff cost of £40 per hour you shouldn’t be. On The Guardian jobs page on 8th March there was an advert for a Parking Operations Manager. The salary was said to be £4-£50 per hour. It wasn’t a Bexley advert but I bet the pay rate is typical.


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