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Political parties come to blows in York


3:23pm 1st December 2011
(Updated 3:29pm 1st December 2011)

The overall cost of servicing Freedom of Information (FOI) requests has been investigated by City of York Council.

The request by the council leader comes amid claims by Labour that the city's Liberal Democrats are using the mechanism unnecessarily and hitting the taxpayer with a costly bill.

Three requests, two by failed Liberal Democrat local election candidates Jonathan Lancaster and Nick Love, and one by former Lib Dem agent for the 2011 Fishergate ward election Christopher Twells, are estimated to have cost the taxpayer approaching £1,000 since May.

Research into other FOI requesters, dating back to the legislation being enacted is being undertaken, with News International and the Taxpayers' Alliance expected to be prominent in the list of those taking a toll on the public purse.

PICTURE: James Alexander

james alexander

Labour Council Leader Coun. James Alexander said:

"Officers have confirmed that the cost of servicing FOI requests in 2010/11 was almost £200k, and approximately £300 per request on average.

"Freedom of information powers can be useful when sensitive information is being blocked from public access and scrutiny.  But it appears that some approach organisations with the view that that organisation is not going to co-operate from the outset.

"A great deal of time and money can be saved by avoiding what is often a very costly and bureaucratic process.  It is clearly being used for political ends by the city's Lib Dems, who have a Group of eight councillors in a position to ask any of these questions directly to me or to council officers. 

"It's a completely unnecessary burden on local council taxpayers".

In response Minster FM have been in touch with the Liberal Decocrat group.

PICTURED: Carol Runciman

carol runciman

Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Councillor Carol Runciman said:

"James Alexander promised that he would lead and open and transparent council, but it seems he is only willing to be transparent about things he wants people to find out. He also seems to think that anyone who unsuccessfully stood for election has no right to hold the council to account, which is an odd sentiment coming from someone who once tried and failed to get elected in both Huntington & New Earswick and York Outer."

"On the one hand James Alexander claims that Lib Dem Councillors would be able to freely ask for this information, yet on the other he claims FOI requests cost £300 each. If the information is freely available for Councillors to ask for, then why does it cost £300 to release the exact same information through an FOI request? The only difference is that FOIs are put on the Council website for everyone to view, if this costs £300 a time then the Council need to take a serious look at the process."

“In October James Alexander appeared in The Press revealing he had found out information about the cost of North Yorkshire Police helping out during the riots by submitting a Freedom of Information request.  Presumably he now feels that he wasted the Police’s time and money to get information he used for political means.”

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