Freedom of Information requests criticised by council leader (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Freedom of Information requests criticised by Essex County Council leader
Some requests under the Freedom of Information Act are an unnecessary drain on the public purse, according to the leader of Essex County Council.
David Finch said the estimated cost to the council this year will be £236,000, compared to £185,000 in 2013.
Speaking to the BBC, the Conservative group leader criticised requests on issues such as "apocalypse zombies" and the "number of public loos in Essex".
The council currently receives about eight requests a day under the act and each request takes on average of nine hours to complete, councillor Finch claims.
He said: "Last year the cost was £185,000 and the year before that it was £148,000 so you can see there's been a steady increase.
"This money could be spent on frontline services for children, the elderly or on highway maintenance.
"I would never deny it was a valuable tool but much of the information requested is available on websites and other sources."
The council hires 10 people to deal with the thousands of requests it receives, including the 750 that have been logged so far this year.
He claims requests are being submitted in a "frivolous, trivial way" and most of the minute details requested can be obtained elsewhere.
The information Commissioner Christopher Graham is responsible for ensuring the act is adhered to.
A spokesperson for his office said: "The access to information this law gives the public is crucial in helping us to understand what public authorities are doing in our name and with our money.
"In recent years the Act has resulted in the release of important information that the public have a right to know about, such as the costs of major transport projects or information relating to trials into the latest medicines.
"It can reveal areas of profligate spending as well as good practice and value for money."
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