So, as I said last week the city council failed to respond to my FOI request asking for the release of the expenses of the city council cabinet within 20 days.
My comment that "there would be trouble" made a few people giggle, but anyway I was pretty grumpy about it, especially because the county council had given me the same info already, with days to spare. I was even more grumpy because I was told there was no real reason for the delay. Actually the reason I was given was so shocking I can't put it on here because it was followed swiftly by the "that was off the record by the way."
Anyway, on to today then.
10am: The situation was discussed with newsdesk and the editor, and we decided to get a formal response from the council's FOI department explaining the late reply and run a story on it. So I called the top man there, who said it was a "failure in the council's processes." Thanks. Very. Much. That's. Why. I. Am. Ringing.
Midday: I get a phone call from the city press office, asking if I was writing a story on the delay and if they could send a full statement explaining it. Of course I say.
2pm: I receive this explanation:
A city council spokesperson said:
“Firstly, we acknowledge that responding to this request has taken longer than we had hoped and we apologise for that.
“The scale and complexity of Freedom of Information (FoIA) requests has grown over the last couple of years, putting the resources and systems we need to deal with these requests under some pressure. The consequence is that responses to some requests, like this one, extend past the agreed deadline.
“However, we are currently reviewing our FoIA management systems to ensure we are better placed to deal with these requests in the future.
“As far as members’ expenses are concerned, the council has a policy of transparency – for many years summary information has been made available to the Mercury for publication annually.
“Members of the public also have access to this information during a set period each year, as part of the access arrangements to our wider accounts. We are aiming to have all of our accounts information available for public access by mid summer and will be publishing a notice to that effect shortly.
“The Mercury’s request and the ongoing national debate around MPs expenses have raised a number of issues about how we can ensure the greatest possible levels of transparency. We are currently looking at how we can make this information even more accessible so that the council taxpayers of Leicester can see exactly where their money is being spent.”
I then pop into a meeting to discuss how we are going to cover the elections on June 4.
3.15pm: The expenses, invoices and receipts are hand delivered to Mercury towers by Leicester City Council.
It would be cynical of me to think that I would not have got those details today anyway right? Now to plough through them.
One thing I have already noticed, one senior councillor sends more texts than the average teenager each month and charges the taxpayer by the way.
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