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  • Just four more to join the party

    Posted on July 20th, 2009 admin No comments

    The Government’s consultation of which new organisations should be brought within the Freedom of Information net has resulted in proposals to add just four bodies - and one of those offered voluntarily to join.

    So after all the deliberation it is proposed to add academy schools, the university application body UCAS, the Financial Ombudsman Service and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to the organisations covered by the legislation.

    ACPO volunteered itself for inclusion under the Act.

    Those organisations that still sweep under the radar of FOI are:

    Utility Companies: Government has said “no” at the moment but said it is attracted to bring them under FoI and will conduct more consultation in the future. So Network Rail still side-steps the Act.

    Contractors: Business groups moaned about the unknown costs they would have to factor into prices for the variable expense of answering FoI queries. Government also said “no” to the inclusion of this group but said it would keep the matter under review particularly in relation to private prisons, detention centres and foster homes.

    Professional and Voluntary Regulators : (eg. Advertising Standards Authority, The Law Society). “Not appropriate” at present to come under FoI, says the Government. Some bodies complained if they were brought within FoI there members would be less likely to disclose as much to them for fear it may eventually be broadcast to a wider audience under FoI.

    Charities: It was felt the cost of charities complying with the Act would take money away from the charitable causes.

    Academies: Academy schools to be included just like normal Local Education Authority funded schools. Private schools will still operate outside FoI.

    Conservative justice spokeswoman Eleanor Laing said: “This Government has revealed their total contempt for greater transparency by only considering to extend the Freedom of Information Act to just four new bodies.

    “Hard-pressed taxpayers are pouring money into our nationalised banks and unaccountable quangos, such as regional assemblies, yet these will remain clouded in unacceptable secrecy.”

    The extension of FOI legislation announced by Mr Straw was described as ”a useful but disappointingly modest result”, by the Campaign for Freedom of Information.

    The Campaign had argued that private health bodies providing surgical or diagnostic services under the NHS should be subject to the Act as should providers of social care services and educational and criminal justice services.

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