FOI: a drop in the ocean

A new infographic compares the cost of FOI to government expenditure.

Freedom of Information_literally a dropToday’s infographic represents the relative cost of FOI to total government expenditure. Government expenditure is reported in the government’s own Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses, and the 2015 edition reports that total government expenditure in 2014/15 was £568,958,000,000 – or £569 billion (see table 6.1 of the analyses).

The cost of FOI is notoriously difficult to put a figure on. Figures tend to be disputed when they are published. For the sake of argument, I’ve adopted the average cost of an FOI request to central government provided by the Ministry of Justice’s study in 2012. In order to come up with an annual cost of FOI, I’ve multiplied this figure by the number of requests that the main central government departments received in 2014 according to the MoJ’s annual FOI statistics report. It’s not a perfect methodology – it compares financial to calendar year for a start – but it does provide reasonable working figures for the purposes of comparison. The cost of FOI in central government according to this calculation was £5,686,888 in 2014. My maths isn’t my strongest point but expressed in billions, I think this is £0.0057 billion.

All of this is summarised in the graphic opposite, and as ever, this will be accessible via the Infographics page for your ongoing ready access and use.

PS: yesterday, some of you will have noticed that I launched a competition. And then you may also have noticed that the competition disappeared. One or two people on Twitter pointed out some issues with the collection of data, and I decided the safest option was to temporarily withdraw the competition until I could be sure that the rules were set out correctly. I’ve written to the few who had already entered at that point, but if you weren’t one of those and you were interested in taking part, don’t worry, I do intend to relaunch the competition soon once I’m satisfied that everything is OK. Watch this space!

One comment

  1. David Matthew says:

    The cost of moving from a 30-year rule to a 20-year rule for Government records and which some departments (but not all, Treasury in particular) are implementing was estimated to cost £50million so a mere £5m isn’t going to be much in the overall position. The cost for FOI would come down if Government released records from almost 100 years ago (there are over 230,000 closed records at The National Archives, many going back to the 1920s and 1930s).

    One can only assume that Government doesn’t want the public to know!.