Friday, March 30, 2012

£140,000 a year?

I received my copy of Carmarthenshire News the other day and having looked through I realised that there was little actual news just a load of puffery from the council's PR department so I wrote and asked how much this cost the council tax payer annually. In return I got the following email:
Dear Mr Bain,
Thank you for your request for information, which was received on 29th March, 2012 and has been dealt with under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
The specific information you requested was as follows:
“Could you please tell me how much money is spent annually producing and posting the council "newspaper"”

In response, the information you have requested is already published by the Council on its website and may be accessed as follows:
Under Section 21 of the Act, a public authority is not obliged to provide information where it is already reasonably accessible to the applicant, which in this case is online as explained above.
As I am refusing to provide information on the basis that it is already published, please consider this email as a formal notice of refusal under Section 17 of the Act.
If you are unhappy with the way in which your request has been handled, you can request a review by writing to:
The Head of Administration & Law
Carmarthenshire County Council
County Hall
SA31 1JP
If you remain unhappy with the handling of your request or complaint, you have a right to appeal to the Information Commissioner at:
The Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Telephone: 0303 123 1113
There is no charge for making an appeal.
If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Yours sincerely
John Tillman
Swyddog Gwybodaeth a Diogelu Data
Adran y Prif Weithredwr
Cyngor Sir Gaerfyrddin
Information & Data Protection Officer
Chief Executive's Department
Carmarthenshire County Council
Mewnol/Internal: 4127
Allanol/External: 01267 224127
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I was tempted to reply directly but thought it more apposite to just add my tuppence worth  in the wilds of the interwebs:
Having perused the link they sent the information does not say from which external organisations the sponsorship and adverts come from, I think they are mostly council controlled or funded and as such are no more than a fig leaf or perhaps creative accounting. There is no breakdown of the costs of producing and hosting the web pages.
By my reckoning that is at least £140,000 wasted on a lot of subjective waffle which would not warrant more than a couple of paragraphs in a proper newspaper.
How many useful projects could that help?