Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Knowle relocation project: and FOI requests >>> >>> >>> "But these are things that people do not know: They do not know because they are not told."

There has been some discussion on the Streetlife site on the pros and cons of making FOI requests for information around the District Council's relocation project:

Saving EDDC money...

Fascinated to read in today’s Herald that EDDC are complaining loudly about the cost of dealing with so many FOI requests. 

The simple solution appears to evade them … stop being so secretive! If they operated as the public servants they actually are, rather than like a private business, there would be no need for FOI requests at all. 

It’s long overdue that their tendency to site “commercial interests” as a defence for not releasing information comes to an end. If (for instance) companies bidding for a contract with EDDC know in advance that all the information will be in the public domain, there is a level playing field for all, and no need for the covert operations of the past.

The route to less FOI requests is transparency, the bonus of which will be a more contented and far less suspicious electorate.

Streetlife | Saving EDDC money....

Here is that article from the Herald in full:

EDDC spends ‘a large amount’ on FoI requests

16 February 2016

Harvey Gavin

EDDC's Knowle HQ. Ref shs 7651-15-12SH Picture: Simon Horn

‘An awful lot of taxpayers’ money’ is spent on dealing with Freedom of Information (FoI) requests, East Devon District Council (EDDC) has revealed.

The Herald reported in July how authority bosses were considering hiring an extra member of staff – at a cost of up to £33,000-a-year – to help process the hundreds of applications the council receives.

This has since gone ahead, but EDDC says it still ‘expends a large amount of resource’ on handling FoI requests - including time spent by senior officers, their staff and the council’s legal team.

The FoI Act allows anyone to request information which is not already publicly available.

At present, people can lodge a request with a local authority or public body, so long as finding the information does not cost more than £450. Last year, Sidmouth resident Jeremy Woodward successfully used FoI requests to force EDDC to release confidential documents about its relocation from Knowle.

EDDC dealt with 486 requests in 2014/15 - down from 563 the year before.

But at a meeting in December, EDDC leader Councillor Paul Diviani told members that the council still spends ‘an awful lot of taxpayers’ money dealing with FoI requests’.

The Herald asked EDDC exactly how much is spent, but a spokeswoman said it does not usually quantify officer time spent dealing with FoIs as part of their day-to-day work.

The spokeswoman added: “We employ one permanent (part time) member of staff to deal with FoIs and complaints and have more recently taken on another post (fixed-term for one year) to assist in dealing with the volume of work in this particular department.

“Approximately, over half of their time is spent on FoI requests as opposed to complaint handling. Of course, it is not just the time of the officers directly responsible for handling requests that should be noted.

“The monitoring officer also has to spend time dealing with internal reviews and, perhaps more significantly (in terms of overall time), the time spent by other senior officers (and their staff members) in dealing with a request that involves their service, also has to be taken into account.

“Finally, there is the time spent by the legal department in helping the information and complaints officers carry out their role.

“Suffice to say, given the number of requests, the council expends a large amount of resource in dealing with FoIs.”

EDDC spends ‘a large amount’ on FoI requests - News - Sidmouth Herald

And here is comment from and on the EDW blog:


16 February 2016

Good heavens, the amount of money spent is miniscule when you compare it to the amount EDDC spends trying to keep things secret ( they also refuse to say how much last year’s court case on FoI ( which they lost) cost where they also refused to cost the time of their lawyers and consultants in fighting it.

Sour grapes Owl thinks!

The more transparent things are, the less work the FoI officer will have to do.

And why engage another person when the number of requests have fallen?

Are you anticipating a high number of new requests for some reason? The HQ move, shrouded in secrecy; the devolution deal being done behind closed doors; the meetings with developers that have things cut and dried BEFORE public consultation? Hhmm.

2 thoughts on “EDDC would rather we did not bother them with Freedom of Information requests”

Paul F says:
16 Feb 2016 at 11:52am

The Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Impact Regulations have now become an essential part of democracy as a partial counter-balance to the hidden agendas, secret deals, Part-B confidential papers, clique-run cabinet, secret Asset Management Forum etc.

Let us not forget:

a. EDDC spent far, far more than this on defending a single FoI decision to keep Knowle relocation documents secret, defending it as far as the First Tier Tribunal, represented by a highly-paid specialist barrister, in order to keep these papers secret until the decision had been made – only to release them soon after the decision had been made, with the public left wondering just what needed to be kept so secret.

b. There have been various decisions made and delivered as a fait-a-complis not only to the public who were neither consulted nor informed, but also to Councillors and even some Cabinet members (e.g. the tri-partite agreement making East Devon part of Greater Exeter, the recent broadband deal declaring unilateral independence from the existing Connecting Devon and Somerset programme at potentially far greater cost).

I should also add that EDDC regularly fails to meet its legal obligations with regard to the FoIA – even since they have employed extra staff, and all recent complaints to the Information Commissioner have been upheld at least partially. SO perhaps the real question is why EDDC is continuing to break the law on a regular basis without now having the excuse of insufficient staff?

Tim says:
16 Feb 2016 at 12:22pm

If EDDC were to honour the word of Dear Leader when he was elected, promising more transparency, and to fully and routinely publish full information on their website, then there would be far less need for FOIs.
Further, if FOI’s were dealt with properly and not seen as yet another occasion to spend time working out how to avoid answering the question, and being accountable, then even more time would be saved.
To borrow from Ian Hislop’s Foreword to ‘Your Right to Know’ by Heather Brooke:
But these are things that people do not know:
They do not know because they are not told.

EDDC would rather we did not bother them with Freedom of Information requests | East Devon Watch

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