Friday, 25 March 2011

Don't Tell Them About the Mobile Phones!

It may be me but NCC appears to have reached new levels of paranoia over the release of information under the Freedom of Information Act.

Someone has made a request for details of senior posts who are issued with mobile phones paid for by the council, or alternatively, provided with expenses for phone use. He also asks for phone numbers and the associated expenditure over the last three years.

Not the sort of thing I'd be bothered about knowing I admit, partly because I don't think it's particularly unreasonable to provide senior managers with a means to be contacted easily and in my experience councils aren't particularly profligate in this area (by which I mean I never got one. I could have claimed for calls I made for work but frankly it was more work than it was worth). Still, not for me to judge the validity of other people's requests, I'm sure this guy has his reasons.

On the other hand, I will judge NCC on what seems like a completely unjustified claim of exempt information. They have said that they are considering exempting the info under s.36 of the FoIA which allows them to refuse requests for info that may "prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs".

For the life of me I cannot see how on earth they can consider that this exemption applies, with the possible exemption of the actual phone numbers. Having those out in the public domain may well get in the way of 'public affairs' if some joker decides it would be a laugh to phone them at inconvenient times of the day. But the rest seems like a simple 'lets see how much of our money councils waste on freebies for managers' type of request which may be a bit of a pain to deal with but hardly justifies the use of an exemption to keep it secret.

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