STRATTON ST Margaret Parish Council has done itself no favours by failing to respond in good time to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Even if there is an innocent explanation for such a lapse – and we have yet to see evidence of anything other than an innocent explanation - the public can be left feeling that organisations are fostering cultures of secrecy.

According to parish council chairman John Foley, obtaining the required information would cost £450. It is understandable that the organisation is concerned about expenditure in the current economic climate, not least because for a long time Swindon Council withheld a large sum of money the Government explicitly stated was for parish councils.

However, £450 seems a little steep for obtaining data which ought to be readily available at the press of a few buttons. We suggest an urgent review by the parish of data storage procedures, followed by full disclosure of the information requested.

If any of that information is withheld on the grounds of exemption from freedom of information rules, the public has the right to know precisely which rules are being invoked and how the decision might be appealed.

In commenting on the matter, local councillor Dale Heenan seems disgruntled that the parish council is advertising for a new clerk with a £50,000 salary, pension and relocation package.

That being the case, we can only assume he’s apoplectic at the fact that certain Swindon council officials are paid two or three times that – and one walked away not so long ago with a £100,000 severance package.