Deputy leader of Stratford District Council slams FOI requests suggestion

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The suggestion to publish details of and replies to FOI requests on the Tory-led authority’s website was made by opposition Liberal Democrat councillors

The deputy leader of Stratford District Council has slammed a suggestion that freedom of information requests and replies concerning council services should be published on their website as a dreadful idea.

The suggestion was put forward by the opposition Liberal Democrat group in the form of a notice of motion but was rejected by members of the cabinet at their meeting this week.

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Cllr Daren Pemberton (Con, Bidford East), deputy leader and the place and economy portfolio holder, told the meeting: “This is a dreadful idea. Leaving aside the financial cost element of actually doing it, leaving aside the time element, it is hugely inappropriate for a number of reasons.

“Freedom of information requests tend to be from individuals around specific issues and they tend to want to be able to make those enquiries within a safe framework, but we are talking about publishing that information on a website.

“Secondly, requests are used by commercial organisations on a regular basis to find information to allow them to pitch for business - I know this, I do it all the time.

“Thirdly, requests are weaponised by individuals, organisations, the media and political opponents and supporters. So by publishing, it would give more airtime to those looking to do us down as an organisation.

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“Also, in a large number of circumstances, they relate to and impact on individual officers and their performance and decision making and again I think it is inappropriate to put that into the public domain without context. It does nobody any good.”

Other cabinet members were also against the move with Cllr John Shenton (Con, Wootton Wawen) asking why the council would do it when there was no legal requirement.

But Cllr Susan Juned (Lib Dem, Alcester Town) said: “I have listened to the debate and have taken on board quite a few of the points made. I have had residents ask me how they could find out about how the council was performing.

"If a resident has asked a question about the performance I think we should be open about it.

"We don’t need to publish anything not legally possible.”

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