HER information comes under the proposed new Environmental Information
Regulations. These, and an accompanying draft Code of Practice for
local authorities, are currently out to consultation from DEFRA.
Under the EIR, you can charge for the provision of information, but not
a facilities fee. I have also heard talk of a 10% limit, but this is
not clear in the draft EIR or Code of Practice. Make representations to
DEFRA about what should be in the Code of Practice in respect of
charging. The EIR allows for a "reasonable" charge. It may be set by
locally by Members.
What is going to be a real show stopper is the reporting system
required by the FoI / EIR. Every authority has to record all requests
for information, whether by e-mail, telephone, or letter, and state if
the request is acceded to or refused. Our IT boffins are already
constructing a corporate database to central Government design details
which we will have to use. Merely entering enquiries into your HER
consultations module will not be sufficient. You actually have to
generate formal letters of acknowledgement stating when you will respond
by. No simple phone call to say the same will do. It will also take
more time to record out-of-authority enquiries than it now takes simply
to pass them on. Your authority will also need to set up public
interest panels to judge what requests are refused. Do you have the
clerical staff to do all this mindless recording?
Frank is in the best position. All of his HER info is online, and
stuff that is proactively disseminated doesn't need to go through the
With these cheery thoughts,
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North Yorkshire County Council.