If you've ever tried to get information out of our political overlords you might find this story amusing.
In June this year West Lothian Council announced that over 40 local businesses will receive money from a £2 million fund aiming to give a boost to local jobs, innovation and exports. The rather long press release featured plenty of marketing speak but failed to mention which companies will benefit from the hand-out, and so a journalist from the Sunday Post submitted a freedom of information request to find out just that.
The request for information was promptly rejected. That in itself is hardly surprisingly – politicians and bureaucrats don't like it when their "aren't we fabulous" stories are questioned. What was surprising was the reason for rejection:
The disclosure of such lists into the public domain runs the risk of these companies being susceptible to 'direct mailing' from businesses promoting their own products or services. Such activity would have the result of being reputationally damaging to West Lothian Council.
This Tuesday I asked West Lothian Council if I could talk with someone about the story. I'm genuinely interested to know how the decision to withhold the information has been weighed against the need for local authorities to be transparent and accountable. Without knowing who the recipients are the public has no way of knowing whether or not money has been handed to friends and relatives of decision makers, for instance. I'd also quite like to know if any of the companies that have applied for the funds raised "junk marketing" as a concern.
Perhaps predictably, West Lothian Council has not responded to my request.