Friday, March 30, 2007

Freedom of information - two years on

ICO press release 29 March 2007:
Four out of five public authorities have a positive attitude towards the Freedom of Information Act two years after its introduction, according to new research published today by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Eighty three per cent of public authorities believe the Act has helped create a culture of greater openness in the public sector and 59% of respondents agreed that freedom of information had reduced unnecessary secrecy. Over half of public authorities questioned said that since the Act was introduced they now publish more information as a matter of course. However, a third of respondents felt their organisation would release less information under the Act if permitted to charge for consideration time.

Deputy Commissioner, Graham Smith, said: “Our research shows that the majority of public authorities are recognising the benefits of the Freedom of Information Act in increasing openness and improving public trust. I am encouraged that more information is routinely being released into the public domain which would otherwise remain secret.”

Three quarters of respondents said they had received requests for information under the Act. Information regarding decisions made by public authorities and statistics about organisations were the most requested pieces of information. According to the research requests for personal information about staff was the most common reason for refusing disclosure under the Act. One-third of public authorities turned down requests for commercially sensitive information.

The findings are part of a survey carried out among 564 public authorities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland as part of a review of the first two years of the Act.


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