Freedom of information and ‘vexatious’ requests — the case of Scottish local government

Cherry, M. and McMenemy, D. (2013) Freedom of information and ‘vexatious’ requests — the case of Scottish local government. Government Information Quarterly, 30(3), pp. 257-266. (doi: 10.1016/j.giq.2013.02.004)

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Abstract

This paper investigates the cost and incidence of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests within councils in Scotland and in particular, the cost and incidence of requests which have been defined as ‘vexatious’ in order to investigate if the negative perceptions surrounding the cost and misuse of the legislation are justified. Additionally, the criteria and guidelines that councils are using to define ‘vexatious’ are also examined. The approach taken to the research in this study is a survey of the 32 councils in Scotland using freedom of information requests as the data collection method. The findings from the survey revealed that none of the councils were keeping records of costs relating to FOI requests. However, 80% were keeping records of numbers of requests. One third of authorities that kept records of ‘vexatious’ requests had experienced such a request. However, the actual number of ‘vexatious’ requests received were extremely low, suggesting that the negative perception of the legislation as wasting taxpayers' money through the submission of playful and vexatious queries to councils was misleading and inaccurate. From a practical perspective, the findings highlight the difficulties in recording cost data and the general lack of record keeping within organisations, suggesting some national guidance and coordination on the issues may well help make councils more efficient. The increasing numbers of request for information since the legislation came into force suggests that it has been successful in opening up councils to public scrutiny.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Exemptions, freedom of information, vexatious requests.
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:McMenemy, Dr David
Authors: Cherry, M., and McMenemy, D.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Information Studies
Journal Name:Government Information Quarterly
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0740-624X
ISSN (Online):1872-9517
Published Online:11 May 2013

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