Many of my previous blogs relate to how difficult it is to get information out of the council even as a councillor.
This has led me to resort to attempting to gain important information through the Freedom of Information Act.
Even this appears not to work. You views would be appreciated!
FOI and Council response below:
From: Michael J. Barnes
Sent: 23 November 2009 13:49
Subject: FOI REQUEST
Could you provide me with the following information under the FOI Act:
1. How many Consultants currently work for Stoke-on-Trent City Council, including NSRP?
2. How much is the total estimated cost of these consultants for this financial year 2009/10?
3. How many individual consultants or interim officers are currently paid more than £500 per day (or equivalent based on a normal officer hours) by the Stoke-on-Trent City Council or the NSRP? Please include those employed for doing only 1 day (example) per week and earning more than £500 for that week.
4. How many individual consultants or interim officers have been paid more than £500 per day (or equivalent based on a normal officer hours) by the Stoke-on-Trent City Council or the NSRP and have now left, and what is their total cost?
Cllr Mike Barnes
Dear Councillor Barnes
Your request for information on consultants
Although we do hold some of the information that you have requested, we estimate that the cost of complying with your request would be more than £450. This amount is called the appropriate limit and is specified in regulations. When it would cost more than £450 to locate, retrieve and extract the information that is requested, section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act allows us to refuse the request.
If you make a new request for a smaller amount of information, it may then be inside the appropriate limit, although I cannot guarantee that it would be and we would have to assess your new request.
Information currently held by the finance department only relates to September 2009 and will not provide an accurate account of the costs as consultants that are currently working for the City Council as well as consultants who have now left, may not be included in the figures.
In addition to this, locating, retrieving and extracting the information requested in questions 3 and 4 alone would require the finance department accessing all of the creditor numbers for all of the companies listed as consultants and interims. Each individual invoice entry on the creditors system would then need to be accessed and then the invoices would need to be located which refers to the consultant or the commissioned work in question. The scanned images of the actual invoices would then be accessed to see if the consultant had cost the City Council more than £500 per day. This process would need repeating for potentially several hundred invoices and would take a considerable amount of time.
If you have any queries about this email, please do not hesitate to contact me.
If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision, you should write to: Louise Kelly, Information Manager, Chief Executive’s Directorate, Civic Centre Floor 4, Glebe Street, ST4 1HH or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If, after contacting us, you are not content with the outcome, you may ask the Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally, the Information Commissioner cannot make a decision unless you have already used our appeal procedure. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.
What a joke!