Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Comments on FOI costs on IDEA pages

I received the following comments from Lydia Pollard at IDEA:

"I accept your points about the figures being high and the fact that there was no mention of the original research figures on costs. With hindsight I should have mentioned these estimates too. The main aim of giving some costs was to get those authorities currently doing little or nothing to actually do something. Sometimes giving the worst case scenario is the only way to get them to take action.

However on checking the research figures, I have my concerns about whether these are too low and not truly representative either. I note that they are based on marginal costs and assume a minimum rate of enquiries. They also assume that the enquiries will be similar to those already asked of authorities ( actually central government and not necessarily local government) and will not involve any additional overhead and fixed costs.

There is some evidence, even in this country, to suggest that the enquiries may be quite different and involve a lot of additional work. For example,local authorities have already received requests for information about pre-planning discussions ( which has caused some authorities to review their processes) and information about contractors. A large number of authorities have had to employ at least one additional member of staff to deal with FOI and also purchase an electronic records management system which has increased their fixed and overhead costs. Furthermore the costs I quoted were actual costs not marginal costs as I felt these were probably of more interest to local authorities."

Thanks to Lydia for allowing me to publish her comments

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