COMPANIES could be charged for some Freedom of Information (FOI) requests made to Selby District Council under new proposals.

The authority may look at using changes to Government legislation to impose a fee on firms asking for large amounts of “complex information”, if the recipients are planning to use it to make money.

It said there were currently no plans to introduce similar charges for members of the public, but the Campaign for Freedom of Information has stressed that companies – including the media – should not automatically be asked to pay for FOI responses.

In a report which will be discussed by the council’s executive on Thursday, its business manager Eileen Scothern said: “As a council, we regularly receive requests from commercial organisations, for example companies seeking spreadsheets on business rates.”

A council spokesman said requests which would be considered for charging are those which have the potential to be reused for commercial gain.

He said: “The purpose of raising this at the executive is to see if this is an area they would like officers to look into.”

The campaign for FOI said a new code of practice on things such as spreadsheets and tables, stated that public bodies should have a good reason for charging for information and should use the Open Government Licence, allowing information to be released and reused without charge, as a “starting-point”.

A spokeswoman said: “Our view is that public authorities should only charge for reuse where they are commercially exploiting the dataset or where value-added changes have been made to make it suitable for commercial exploitation, and the authority would suffer some loss from releasing it.

“They shouldn’t be seeking to charge the press or campaign groups which are serving the public interest.”