AN East Renfrewshire councillor has attacked the press and public over Freedom of Information requests.

Labour member Alan Lafferty slammed “lazy journalists” and political researchers during the latest meeting of the council’s cabinet.

He demanded that those who use FOI laws, which give everyone the right to ask for any information held by a Scottish public authority, be “weeded out.”

Councillor Lafferty also complained about residents’ use of FOIs after it was claimed the local authority spends in excess of £100,000-a-year responding to requests.

He said: “I do share the concern about increasing costs. We’re getting to the stage where it’s diverting resources from frontline services. It just seems if we weeded out these lazy journalists and researchers UK-wide…

“It’s bad enough that we have to grapple with our local residents but at least they are our residents.”

Cllr Lafferty was speaking after it was revealed the council dealt with a record 1,296 FOI requests last year.

That was up by 10 per cent on the previous highest total, with requests from political groups making up 13 per cent of submissions.

Requests from the media made up another 13 per cent of the total – less than the 15 per cent that the council failed to respond to within the statutory time period.

And more than half of requests were made by individuals, businesses, community groups and public authorities.

Independent councillor Danny Devlin claimed that some information being used by community groups was “on the verge of cyber-bullying.”

And council leader Tony Buchanan questioned why details of FOI applicants aren’t made public.

He said: “I do have some concerns as to how some of this is used, particularly in terms of the cost to the taxpayer.

“I would suspect that it would be in excess of £100,000 a year answering questions.

“Freedom of Information allows transparency of what we do but there seems to be no transparency on the individuals who have made the requests on several occasions.”

East Renfrewshire Council’s records manager Craig Geddes estimated that dealing with FOI requests was taking up the equivalent of four permanent workers’ time.

It was also revealed that the local authority received 22 appeals to overturn decisions on providing information.

East Renfrewshire overturned its original decisions on six occasions, with 14 judgements being fully or partially upheld and two appeals being withdrawn.