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Amendments to the Freedom of Information Act

Comment 2nd July 2010

Amendments to the FOIA to allow only useful and genuine enquiries.

Why does this matter?

I'm a manager in a busy local authority.  I support in principle the need for free access to information but the current system is being grossly abused.  We are now dealing with requests on a daily basis and I would estimate that less than 10% of these requests are being made in the interests of the public and the spirit of the legislation.  The remainder come from private companies, claims solicitors, marketing companies, mischievious customers and even our own councillors.  The information being provided has no use to the wider public in the same way it would for a request about MPs expenses for example.  We receive hundreds of requests from people who have visited pothole.com.  This website encourages users to claim for damages to their vehicles by means of the FOIA.  The amount of wasted staff time is incredible.  We even now have a dedictated FOIA team who are employed solely to deal with these enquiries.  What a waste of public money.  The legislation needs to be tightened to either give public organistaions the powers to filter out non-genuine requests or to allow us to charge for the info.  If say a £25 charge was made for each request (regardless of the 18hr threshold) then the malicious enquiries would disappear overnight.  Thanks for listening and I hope you can help with this.  Ask any council officer across the country what they think of this and they will tell the same story.  FOIA is the bane of our lives


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