Alliance anger at Freedom of Information request

Castlereagh Alliance Councillor Michael Long has expressed his anger at a 6 month delay in Castlereagh Borough Council providing him with information regarding Councillors’ allowances and expenses for the financial year 2006/07 under a Freedom of Information request. The request was originally sent to the Council on 9th May 2007 and should have been processed within 21 working days; however, Cllr. Long has still not received the requested information.

Cllr. Long said, “It is ridiculous that 6 months after I first made the request, I have still not received the information, when the response time for such requests should be 21 working days.

“It took 4 months to receive any information at all and, when it arrived, it was not what was requested. In fact, only the figure of total expenses for all members was provided, rather than a Councillor by Councillor breakdown of allowances and expenses. At that point I further clarified the request and made a formal request for the information at the September Council meeting.

“Since then another two months have come and gone and I have still to receive the information on Councillors’ allowances. A further delay has resulted from some Councillors apparently requesting that only the net figures, after deductions, be provided, which will take even more time to process. You would almost think that some people did not want the information made public.

“I honestly don’t know which Councillors have claimed the most or least allowances and as far as I am concerned that is not the issue. I believe in open and accountable government and this is rate-payers’ money and they have the right to know how it spent and decide for themselves whether the amount claimed by individual Councillors represents good value for money.

“This fiasco further strengthens my argument that Castlereagh Council should follow the example of other Councils, like Belfast, and publish all Councillors’ allowances, along with attendance records, annually when they become available. It is also clear that the current procedures for responding to Freedom of Information requests must be reviewed so that they are fit for purpose.”


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