Councils reject one in four requests for information

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SCOTLAND’S councils are rejecting nearly one in four requests from taxpayers asking how they spend public money, it has been revealed.

New figures show that the number of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests rejected by local authorities has nearly doubled since 2010.

FOI laws were introduced to give the public the “right of access” to unpublished information, allowing them to understand the inner workings of bodies funded by public cash.

But statistics from 16 of Scotland’s councils show that of the 19,376 requests issued last year, 4,603 were rejected.

Edinburgh City Council was the worst offender
Edinburgh City Council was the worst offenderuncil

 

This gave a rejection rate of 23.7% – up from 19% in 2010.

The worst council for providing information was Edinburgh, which threw out 59.7% of requests for information.

A spokesman for council umbrella group COSLA said: “Local government is under attack from some who wish to use FOI wrongly as a tool to beat us.”

But Calum Liddle, a researcher at the University of Strathclyde, where the figures were compiled, said: “The taxpayer is fast losing the right to know as a result of certain councils overlooking – perhaps even disregarding – the need for transparency.

“Freedom of information is an essential democratic instrument, but the findings suggest a fragmented rights landscape.”

Only 16 of the 32 Scottish councils contacted supplied responses to Mr Liddle’s request for information.

The figures showed that a total of 79,890 requests were made between 2010 and 2014, with 16,609 rejected.

Edinburgh council’s 59.7% rejection rate was up from 24.7% in 2010.

But a council spokesman defended their provision of information, saying: “There is always a presumption in favour of disclosing the requested information – we release as much information as possible to applicants to ensure transparency and accountability.”

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