Freedom of Information

Council's magazine cost taxpayers thousands

image North Somerset Life front cover
North Somerset Council

A magazine put out by North Somerset council has cost taxpayers thousands over the last 6 years.

North Somerset Life has cost over £800,000 for North Somerset Council's residents and will half its rate of publishing as a result.

A freedom of information request also revealed the publication cost the council £1.06 million between 1 April 2014 and the year to date.

Changes to the frequency of the magazine will start this year.

Image of Mike Bell
Bristol Live

Mike Bell, North Somerset deputy council leader, said: "We are reducing the frequency of the magazine in line with our previous budget saving proposals."

"Some of it will be reinvested in digital communication so that we can continue to communicate regularly with the people who matter most, our residents.” he added.

Mr Bell said the council are complying with central government legislation.

Following the 2015 elections, then leader Cllr Nigel Ashton said: “We are going to continue North Somerset Life for as long as it is needed".

North Somerset Life was introduced in 2014 under the previous Conservative administration.

10 Freedom of Information

How the British public won the right to know more of the truth about the conduct of power.
In this episode, Phil Tinline asks Professor David Vincent to trace the history of the struggle against Britain's culture of secrecy, culminating in a series of causes celebres in the 1980s, particularly the sensational acquittal of senior civil servant, Clive Ponting.  Ponting was charged with leaking sensitive information about the sinking, during the Falklands War, of the Argentinian warship the General Belgrano.  His defence was that he had leaked the information to an MP in the public interest, and despite questions about whether this was a tenable defence, the jury found him not guilty. Professor Heather Brooke recalls how she used the Freedom of Information Act - eventually passed in 2000 but not active until 2005 - during her years of campaigning to expose the MPs' expenses scandal.  And she reflects on how free information is in Britain compared to America.

Producer: Phil Tinline

Council says 'get FOI data from our website'

Dean Kilpatrick

Local Democracy Reporter

Kent County Council is to start being "more robust" when dealing with Freedom of Information requests, according to its data protection officer.

Benjamin Watts says people are submitting questions rather than making use of the relevant data already published by the authority, adding to the workload of officers.

An average 15-hour query costs £456.58 of public money - and with the number of requests set to top 2,000 this year, KCC is changing the way it satisfies the legislation.

Mr Watts told councillors: "Our interpretation of the act is that if it's already published on the council's website, you can have it in that format and not in another one.

"If you wish to have it in another format, you will have to pay.

Currently 85% of Freedom of Information requests are completed on time, although the target is 90%.

Kent County Council chamber
Murray Evans