IMPROVING Dorset Council’s ‘poor’ response to information requests could cost up to £86,000 to rectify.

The authority often fails to meet the 20-working day target to respond to Freedom of Information requests, currently running at between 100 and 150 each month, many relating to children’s services.

A report into the issue concludes: “Benchmarking with other authorities indicates that Dorset Council receives a higher number of Freedom of Information requests than the majority of comparator councils. This may in part be due to demographics, but also suggests that we may not proactively publish information to the extent of other authorities.”

One of the most time-consuming requests is when individuals ask for copies of personal information the council holds about them. These often relate to people who have come into contact with social services, adoption or fostering and can involving reviewing over 1,000 pages per case. The largest single request this year has involved looking at more than 13,000 pages, equivalent to about 440 hours work.

The council says that it currently needs the equivalent of two full time staff, at a cost of £46,500, to bring it to the level of complying with the target times and in addition would need to spend between £32,000 and £40,000 to manage the backlog of work.