Anyone remember the 'Big Brother Project' in Worcestershite* and Herefordshire? I wrote about almost 5 months ago. For those not familiar with it, the project is funded through the Department of Work and Pensions and JobCentrePlus and provides a free makeover, free shopping trip, free lunch, free childcare and reimbursed travel costs to single unemployed parents in order to boost their confidence. There is such a thing as a free lunch (and more) you see.
Anyway, back then, the DWP appeared to have rather fluid lines about what it could and could not say about the cost of the project. At first they wouldn't say anything on the grounds that the information on the taxpayer cost of the project was "commercially sensitive", then when they were asked in Parliament about it they said the answer could only be supplied at"disproportionate cost" because the information wasn't held "centrally".
I decided to put a Freedom of Information request at the time to ask JobCentrePlus about it, and to be honest I had forgotten about it until today. What reminded me? Well, I got a reply - not bad huh? They're supposed to respond within 20 days of the receipt of the request, they did it in about 150. The letter was dated the 17th and arrived on the 29th so I guess they use 12th class mail, but I digress.
The response was very nice and pleasant. They apologised profusely for not responding to me and then told me that "the information requested is not held by this Department and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost". Quality. Sorry we didn't answer, but we're not going answer. An interesting answer if you think about it for a moment though.
The project is a JobCentrePlus project, they say they don't hold information on it, but they concede that they could get the information but that it would cost too much, suggesting, in fact, that they probably do hold information actually, otherwise why not just say "the information requested is not held by this Department" and tell me who does it hold it?
I do feel special now though, I have my first "disproportionate cost" response! I think I'll frame it!
* I could change this typo but frankly, it's too bloody funny.