Monday, May 11, 2009

Council expenses?

On the subject of expenses, our political reporter Martin Robinson has been asking for details of the expenses paid to the councillors on Leicester City Council. He has made a request for the full details, including the receipts used to back up the claims, under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

There are two things about this which make me a bit uneasy. Firstly, why do we have to use the Act to ask for these details? When we ask, why wouldn't the council just say: 'Yes, here they are'? They tell us they believe in open government, but there's not always that much sign of it.

Secondly, why does it take so long for the information to be made available? The law is quite specific. It says that information requested under the Act must be handed over promptly and 'in any event, not later than the 20th working day' after the request is made. The Information Commissioner - the man responsible for policing the Act - has said that it is not acceptable for public bodies to routinely wait until the 20th working day to hand over the documents ... we're not at the 20th day yet, but nor are we in the first 10 days.

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