ANSWERING requests for information under the FOI Act and other transparency laws has cost Dudley Council more than £2million over the last seven years, figures have revealed.

The local authority has received 13,025 requests for data and information since January 2012 which have cost an estimated £2,043,680 to process.

In January this year alone 240 FOI requests were submitted – the highest amount of requests in the whole time series – and the figures show that 239 were answered within 10 days.

In 2018 the authority received 2,178 information requests, which cost an estimated £348,480 to process, asking for details on wide and varying subjects from the number of council employees made redundant to the number of people who have died with no next of kin to how much the authority has spent on agency staff.

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Other requests sought information on licensed sex establishments, homeless young people, Christmas Day parking fines, zoo inspections, complaints about private landlords, waste collections, library fines, potholes – and almost every topic imaginable.

As well as requests under the Freedom of Information Act - calls for information also came in the form of EIRs (Environmental Information Regulations) requests and Data Subject Access requests, which have increased since data protection laws were tightened when the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force in May 2018.

Councillor Judy Foster, Dudley Council's deputy leader, said: “Responding to FOIs, EIRs and Data Subject Access Requests is a statutory requirement that all local authorities must comply with.

“As an open and transparent organisation, we pride ourselves on how we handle this area of work.”

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Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair described himself as an "idiot...a foolish, irresponsible nincompoop" for introducing FOI requests.

But his political colleague Ian Austin, Dudley North’s former Labour MP who is now an independent, said: "I think local councils and other public sector organisations have got to be open and transparent about the work they are doing on local people’s behalf.

"There are safeguards to prevent excessive costs and there are all sorts of things they don’t have to reply to such as frivolous or time-wasting requests, so I think that people probably wouldn’t send FOI requests if organisations answered questions and responded to enquiries promptly and properly, providing the details people asked for in the first place."