According to the Times, the government is considering imposing charges for providing information under the Freedom of Information Act:
'An about-turn... has been prompted by a series of embarrassing revelations about the inner workings of government. The cost of responding to requests has also proved so expensive for civil servants to administer that a charge for information is being seen as the only alternative. Bills running into hundreds of pounds could be sent to people with complicated multiple requests, even if the authority ultimately refuses to supply them with the information.'
Tonyscrony Falconer says “Asking about the number of windows at the Department for Education and Skills, or the amount of money that departments spend on toilet paper, diverts energy from answering worthwhile requests."
Hmm. The facts are these:
- Government doesn't want to answer most of the questions, for all the obvious reasons
- The management of the public sector is so shambolic they don't actually have access to the information that successful organisations take for granted (I bet Terry Leahy has a daily printout accounting for every single bogroll used in every single Tesco customer toilet)
- It's another stealth tax
FOI requests are currently running at almost 40,000 pa, with about two-thirds being granted. Tyler's advice is to get yours in pronto.
PS Lord Charlie Falconer of Cronyism is of course a notorious New Labour wind-up, as this profile reminds us: 'Just before the 1997 election he made a bid for political legitimacy by trying to be selected as Labour's parliamentary candidate in Dudley East. He was advised by the selection panel to withdraw his four children from fee-paying schools. When he refused he was told Labour was not in the business of fielding candidates who spent more in a year on buying their children out of state education than most people earned in the same period. He later was asked by an angry pensioner whether he could live on her benefit of less than £100 a week. He claimed he could.' But then, I suppose he hasn't yet wiped his bum on any of that grand-a-roll paper required by his predecessor. Or has he?