£12 million to restrict FOI law

In an article in Hold the Front Page, the charity Public Concern at Work lambastes the Government’s plans to change the freedom of information law as “financially flawed and politically incoherent”.

Using the Government’s own figures, they calculate that it will cost more than £12m to introduce the restrictions. The charity used the Government’s estimate that it costs officials between £1 and £2 to read a single page. That would mean a total cost of £7.2m for one official in each of the 100,000 public bodies to read the new rules and guidance restricting FOI requests and a further £5m for them to think about them.

I love the charity’s point about the time reporters have to spend reading the copious press releases (read propaganda) spewed out by the bloated press and PR offices of Government. If reporters charged £1 a page for reading and trying to sift through all that spin, then politicians would think quite differently I’m sure.

Of course, what the Government’s estimated FOI costs don’t show is the massive savings resulting from FOI. Guy Dehn, the charity’s director, said:

“While it is clear that freedom of information deters waste, inefficiency and fraud across the public sector, all these benefits have been ignored in these proposals. The Government needs to go back to the drawing board and carry out a proper cost-benefit analysis.”

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