Government still hiding Romanian and Bulgarian migrant estimates - needs 60 days to decide whether publication is "in the public interest"
Eric Pickles' department has spent 40 days considering whether it is "in the public interest" to release government estimates for the number of Romanians and Bulgarians expected to enter the UK - but it still can't make up its mind.
The Government does have figures giving an estimate for the number of Romanians and Bulgarians expected to migrate to the UK when the EU transitional controls end next year. Mr Pickles confirmed this in a television interview in January, although he also suggested he didn't have much confidence in the figures.
I submitted a Freedom of Information request asking to see them, and on February 11 I received a reply confirming "The Department for Communities and Local Government holds information that you requested".
By law, Freedom of Information requests are supposed to be answered within 20 working days. The 20 days was up, but the Department claimed this particular piece of information was exempt from the legislation because it may "inhibit the free and frank (i) provision of advice and (ii) exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation".
Instead, the Department's official said, "In your case I need to extend the response time by 20 working days to give me time to decide if the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosing it."
Well, now that 20 days is up - making 40 days in total since the request went in.
And the Department has sent a fresh letter - explaining that it needs another 20 day extension.
The new letter, dated March 12, states: "We need to extend the response time by a further 20 working days to give us time to decide if the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosing it."
So they need, in total, 60 days to consider whether to publish the figures.
Will the next letter - 20 working days from today, and 60 from the day the request went in - provide the figures?