Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s made up costs

So, Avon and Somerset Constabulary have been displaying on their website the cost to them of FOI.  Only, it’s all a load of rubbish!  The website contains some information as to how the figures have been calculated, but it transpires that the figures used were arrived at during an “informal meeting where no minutes were taken” resulting in there being no recorded information which can be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act.

In essence we have a public authority putting figures in a prominent place on its website for which it has absolutely no basis.  It sounds like all they have done is pulled random figures out of the air and used them to calculate figures for Freedom of Information.  The whole idea about transparency is that this facts and figures are put into the public domain and not stuff that you’ve made up sitting round a coffee table one morning/afternoon.

I have replicated below my request in full to Avon and Somerset Constabulary and their response so you can see that I’m not just making it up and it will probably appear on Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s website in due course.

Request

On your website you are currently displaying, in a prominent way, the costs you say you have incurred in answering Freedom of Information requests. In light of that I request the following from Avon and Somerset Constabulary:

(a) Any recorded information held that relates to the actual time spent answering Freedom of Information (FOI) and Environmental Information Requests (EIR) to date in 2012.
(b) Any recorded information that was used to calculate that on average it took Avon and Somerset Constabulary 18 hours to answer a FOI/EIR.
(c) Any recorded information held that relates to the cost per hour of answer FOI and EIR requests to date in 2012.
(d) Any recorded information held that relates to the average cost per hour taken to answer an FOI/EIR request

If for any reason the cost of answering this request would exceed the appropriate limit then I will happily accept the information as it relates to the last 20 requests (starting from 28 March 2012 and working backwards) for Information responded to (inclusive of EIR responses) by Avon and Somerset Constabulary.

Response

Having considered the above request I am unable to provide much of the information that you require as it is not physically recorded and therefore does not fall under the scope of the Act. However in order to provide some explanation you may find the information below to be of interest.

The decision to publish the information referenced in your request and the guide figures used were established at an informal meeting where no minutes were taken and as such there are no records held that can be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI).

The only recorded costs are those published on the Constabulary website under the response to a previous FOI question. Please see link for further details:http://avonandsomerset.police.uk/information/foi/QandA_Question.aspx?qid=1653. The figures quoted in that response are in respect of the staff members dedicated to FOI. However, the ‘true’ cost to the organisation is considerably higher when adding in the full resource implication of responding to an FOI request. For example, the costs of other staff identifying and collating information across the Constabulary, in addition to their normal roles, is not included in that figure and that will of course vary depending on the complexity of the question and the ease of the retrieval of the data. Due to the nature and variations within the process in the context of any individual request, these costs are not fully quantified or recorded.

As explained, the information required to respond to your request is not recorded, however, we have conducted a simple review of the last 20 requests received to establish if any contained a reference to the amount of time taken to identify and extract the data. From that sample group, only one response contained a brief note indicating the time spent on trying to establish an answer to the question and that indicated that it was approximately 7 hours.

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2 thoughts on “Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s made up costs

  1. The constabulary are wrong to use the words “in addition to their normal roles” to describe answering FOI requests. Answering lawful requests should be part of the duties of all staff and FOI is not “abnormal”. Lots of members of the public help the police to catch criminals. It isn’t part of our normal role but we gladly do it when we can. We don’t whinge about it. It is time that orgainisations that are subject to FOI followed the letter of the law, which starnegly is what Avon & Somerset probably expect of everybody else.

    The only consolation is that most people knew that the figures they were using were fictional.

  2. Indeed most people knew that the figures they were using were fictional and now they have proved it by their own words. You are right to point out the part regarding their “normal” duties. However, you probably get what they’re actually meaning (even though they could have probably phrased it much better).

    The figures placed on their website are nothing other than politics and fiction

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