Council claims Norfolk man’s questions cause ‘unreasonable burden’

A Norfolk man has been told to stop writing to all of Norfolk's 84 county councillors and warned that his repeated questions and requests for information to County Hall was costing thousands of pounds and placing an 'unreasonable burden' on officers.

Lawyers for Norfolk County Council have written to retired solicitor John Martin, (pictured), stating that because of the volume of requests he has sent in, the authority will only respond where it has a 'legal obligation' to do so.

A letter from the council's solicitor, Mike Garwood, noted that the authority had dealt with 'at least' 49 freedom of information (FOI) requests, 19 letters raising 'matters you wish to complain about' and at least '169 other requests for information and opinions on matters of council policy of interest to you'.

As well as asking the 60-year-old not to copy correspondence to all elected members, the letter said that there was a 'concern these cause an unreasonable burden on the time and resources of the council and its officers' arising from 'the volume of your communications and that you frequently copy them to all 84 elected members'.

And it said that because of the 'adverse impact' of copying in all councillors the council would need to consider what further action to take.

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'The full cost of this to the public purse is difficult to quantify. However, by way of estimate, the council's cost in 2009/10 of dealing with FOI requests was estimated at �98 per request. This would suggest an estimated cost of dealing with your FOI requests alone of �4,000 to �5,000. It should be noted that the above statistics do not include questions to cabinet and other committees during public question time.' But the retired solicitor, from Great Witchingham, near Norwich, insisted last night that he would not be gagged. Previous requests have centred on issues ranging from the King's Lynn incinerator to losses incurred by the council in the wake of the Icelandic banks collapse.

Mr Martin said the common thread of his questions related to council expenditure, transparency, and whether the council was complying properly with its procedural requirements.

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'Every Norfolk resident is entitled to ask for information about any matter that affects them as a Norfolk resident,' Mr Martin said. 'I would argue that whatever I have cost taxpayers over three years, I have saved more than that for the public in terms of what I have uncovered.'

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