Mean average cost of an FOI request is £184

Research conducted by Ipsos Mori and commissioned by the Ministry of Justice reveals that the mean average cost of an FOI request is £184. The research found that a small minority of expensive requests count for a large proportion of the total costs.

Requests took an average of 6 hours and 10 minutes to complete, with the average cost of staff time calculated at £30 per hour. This is higher than the £25 per hour cost stated in the current regulations. The average cost of an Internal Review was £179, with an average hourly cost of £29.

The Constitution Unit, a specialist FOI research centre based at University College, London, says, however, that estimating FOI costs is problematic and faces methodological difficulties. It states that there are different ways of estimating the cost of FOI, of which the Ipsos Mori study is only one example. 2010 research by the Constitution Unit found that local government officials spent an average of 8.9 hours complying with an FOI request. Assuming a cost of £25 per hour, this amounted to £36.7 million in 2009.

The problem with the Ipsos Mori research is that it describes the cost per year, despite only drawing on two months' worth of data, the Constitution Unit says.  Also, it makes the assumption that all 21 central government departments operate in the same way.

The research was published in March.