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Freedom of Information

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by

Paul Marsden

on 10 December 2013

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Transcript of Freedom of Information

Freedom of Information
Purpose of the Act
Which publicly funded bodies can I ask?
Local Councils
Government
Departments
How to make an FOI Request
The future of FOI
Freedom of Information Act (2000)
Introduced in 2005 to give "a general right of access to information about the work of
government
and
public authorities
".
Public authorities were encouraged to be "open and transparent".
Requests to public authorities must be responded to within 20 working days (four weeks).
Anyone - regardless of who they are or where they live - can make a FOI request.
HOWEVER
Public authorities can reject requests which take more than 2.5 days time (£450) - 3.5 days (£600) for government.
Photocopying costs can also be passed on.
Sensitive information may be removed, e.g. related to criminal proceedings, commercial interests or personal data.
Repeated requests can be turned down.
If a request is refused you will receive a written refusal notice.
You can ask for a review of the decision or appeal to the Information Commissioner.
Health Trusts,
Hospitals & Doctors' surgeries
Police
Schools, Colleges & Universities
Publicly Funded Museums
Your application should include:-
A clear description of the information you want.
Your name and address.
A line saying you are applying using FOI.
If you want paper/electronic info.
Inform them you want it in 20 days.
You do NOT have to say WHY you want the information.
FOI Successes
You have two minutes to answer this question
Why is access to information important to journalists in their 'watchdog' role?
FOI IN ACTION
In the first two years there were 120,000 FOI requests a year.

Journalists accounted for 10% of all FOI requests, with members of the public making 60%.
Websites like WhatDoTheyKnow.com help people submit claims and monitor responses
Public Interest Test
Public Authorities can also exempt information which fails to meet the "public interest" test.
This is anything that affects the public NOT just what the public are interested in.

They must find that the public interest in keeping the information private is GREATER than that of disclosing it.

Factors which increase the chance of information being disclosed include:-
Increasing scrutiny of authorities, e.g. how they spend public funds.
Making sure there is oversight of decision making.
The public is not deceived and misconduct is exposed.
The embarrassment to a body or an official and creating a loss of confidence is a body CANNOT be taken into account.
FOI requests have uncovered several scandals, many involving incompetence.
A stockpile of BBC FOI requests are available online.
Many reporters use FOI requests to self-generate hard and soft news stories.
The biggest FOI scandal involved MPs expenses in 2009.
Since the inception of FOI politicians have raised concerns about its impact.

The government is reportedly considering altering the original legislation to reduce the number of FOI requests.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17634432
http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/politics/domestic_politics/embarrassment%2bover%2bexpenses%2bleak/3134172.html
Full transcript