Freedom of information costs Staffs Council £38,000

Answering questions from taxpayers and the media has cost a council £38,000 this year, prompting it to hit out at freedom of information laws.

Freedom of information costs Staffs Council £38,000

Answering questions from taxpayers and the media has cost a council £38,000 this year, prompting it to hit out at freedom of information laws.

Staffordshire County Council has accused the media and pressure groups" of a "wrongful use" of the Freedom of Information Act, which requires public bodies to disclose information sought by the public. However MPs today defended FOI as a legitimate way for taxpayers to find out exactly how their money is being spent.

The council listed the top 10 users of the FOI laws. The second biggest user of the FOI Act since January was the Express & Star.

The council says answering questions from the E&S cost it £1,150. However, bosses today said that none of the information could have been obtained by any other inquiry than FOI.

The largest user was website Whatdotheyknow.com, run by the charity mySociety, which let members of the public put in inquiries costing a total of £5,450.

Councillor Ian Parry, cabinet member for finance and at Staffordshire County Council, said: "Often commercial organisations ask questions under the FOI Act to save time and research costs, but it is our council taxpayers who foot the bill.

"We think this is a wrongful use if the information requested is already freely available."

Tom Steinberg, director of mySociety, said: "From this I can see that oversight by citizens and journalists cost only £38,000 from a yearly total budget of £1.3bn. I think it is fantastic that Staffordshire County Council can provide suchinformation for only 0.002 per cent of its operating budget."

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