A London council has claimed that a citizen journalist cost taxpayers £40,000 in Freedom of Information requests.
Archant title the Hampstead and Highgate Express reports that finance boss on Barnet Council, Cllr Daniel Thomas, suggested that a blogger submitted 175 FOI requests in six months at a cost of £225 to the council per answer.
Bloggers in Barnet say their name has been smeared and blamed the number of information requests on ‘obstructive’ replies.
They rubbished the council’s cost claims, saying no extra staff had been employed and some FOI requests would take a matter of minutes to complete.
John Dix, who blogs under the alias Mr Reasonable, suggested the council was under pressure from Tory HQ after communities secretary Eric Pickles praised the ‘armchair auditors’ following the MetPro scandal, in which the council employed unlicensed security without a formal contract.
Mr Dix told the newspaper: “The bloggers feel we’re getting a lot of traction with Conservative central office and residents across the borough. I think they are just getting worried and this was something to say, ‘These bloggers are a real nuisance and look how much they are costing the council and the taxpayer’.”
The blogger believed to have been the one referred to by Cllr Thomas, blogged in reply to the allegations under the name Mr Mustard.
He wrote: “The sum of £40,000 has not been spent answering FoI questions. £nil has been spent. All FoI questions are answered by staff in the normal course of their work.
“There are over 3,000 staff employed by the council so answering one question a day between them is hardly going to stop normal work. No extra staff have been employed.”