Cost of FOI searches

Christopher Lee made this Freedom of Information request to Colchester Borough Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was successful.

Dear Colchester Borough Council,
What's the average cost incurred by yourselves for replying to a request?

How much money have each of these people cost CBC in replying to requests.

Myself, Thomas Rowe, Jeremy Hagon.

Yours faithfully,
Christopher Lee

Info, Colchester Borough Council

Dear Requester

Thank you for your request which has been logged under reference 346161.

For full details of the Freedom of Information Act, the Environmental Information Regulations, how a request is dealt with and related information please visit .

Yours sincerely

Mike Fawcett
Information and Project Officer
Colchester Borough Council
Telephone: 01206 508793
Textphone users dial 18001 followed by the full number that you wish to call.

Suzanne Norton, Colchester Borough Council

Dear Mr Lee

Colchester Borough Council does not record the cost of responding to Freedom of Information requests. In common with many other functions which public bodies are obliged by statute or regulation to undertake, costs cannot generally be recovered from any external funding or organisation. The additional expenditure which would be incurred in assessing and recording costs cannot therefore be justified.

A limit on the cost of individual requests is set down in Section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FoIA). In the case of local government the cost limit is £450. The Act also stipulates that staff costs must be calculated at £25 per hour, to cover overheads such as accommodation and equipment costs. This gives an effective limit of 18 hours to the time which the Act requires local authorities to spend on a single request or related group of requests.

Where it appears likely that the time taken to answer a request may exceed the statutory cost limit, officers will make an informal estimate of how long each part of the work will take. If it is clear that the cost limit will be exceeded, the request will be declined. In a few instances it may not become clear exactly how long a particularly complex task will take until it has actually been undertaken.

In practice, the time taken to locate, extract, collate and publish information in response to a single request can vary from a few minutes to, infrequently, more than 18 hours. This work will generally be done by staff who work with the systems and processes concerned, not by a central team or individual.

The FoIA requires public bodies to respond to requests by supplying information they hold. A request can only be refused if the requested information is not held, if the cost limit is exceeded, or when one or more of the exemptions set down within the Act apply.

Information is recorded as necessary by each service to meet its own needs, and/or statutory requirements. It may not therefore be held in a way most suited to answering a particular request. Staff who are familiar with the area of work to which a request relates will naturally follow the most effective processes available to extract data when requested and will endeavour to minimise the time taken and therefore the cost.

As staff do not record the time taken for each request there is no firm data from which to estimate an overall average. The information you have requested is therefore not held.

If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision, you should write to: Mr Andrew Weavers, Monitoring Officer, Colchester Borough Council, Rowan House, 33 Sheepen Road, Colchester, CO3 3WG; email [email address] quoting the reference 346161.

Yours sincerely

Suzanne Norton
Performance Monitoring Officer
Colchester Borough Council

Tel: (01206) 282249

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