Monday, October 27, 2008

Using the FOI Act

Courses for new & experienced requesters

The Campaign for Freedom of Information is running two half-day training courses for FOI requesters on 9 December 2008. The morning course will provide an introduction to legislation, covering both the Freedom of Information Act and the parallel Environmental Information Regulations. The afternoon course will examine some of the key decisions made under the two regimes and explain how they can help you obtain information. Requesters can attend either or both courses, which will be in central London.

Download the course leaflet for more details.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Designation of additional public authorities

21 Oct 2008 : Column 220W

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what progress he is making in his consideration of the extension of the applicability of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to include private companies delivering public services, with specific reference to the transport sector. [228004]

Mr. Straw: The Government are continuing to assess the issues relating to designating additional public authorities under the Act; this includes bodies in the transport sector. We will publish our response in due course.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Housing associations ordered to respond to EIR requests

ICO press release
17 October 2008
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has ruled that two housing associations in Northern Ireland are public authorities for the purpose of requests under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR). Assistant Information Commissioner, Steve Wood is ordering both housing associations to release information on property development or issue a formal notice stating why the information should not be disclosed.
In order to reach his decision, the Assistant Information Commissioner considered whether both housing associations carry out functions of public administration as defined by the EIR. He found that BIH and Wesley manage a range of housing accommodation and do so in line with the Common Selection Scheme approved by the DSD. In his view, these are functions of public administration and therefore both housing associations are public authorities for the purposes of EIR. He noted that, whilst registered housing associations remain independent voluntary organisations, the DSD has considerable power to intervene in a situation of alleged misconduct or mismanagement. In addition, the housing associations must annually account to DSD for their use of public funds. In addition, he found that BIH and Wesley also fall under the EIR as they are under the control of a government department and have responsibilities relating to the environment.
Press release (pdf)
FER0152607 Belfast Improved Housing Association
FER149772 Wesley Approved Housing Association

Relaxtion of secrecy clauses in Scotland

Scottish ministers have made an order amending a number of statutory prohibitions that could have prevented the disclosure of information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act. This follows an equivalent order under the UK FOI Act in 2004.

The Freedom of Information (Relaxation of Statutory Prohibitions on Disclosure of Information) (Scotland) Order 2008.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

ICO rules on Ofsted inspectors' notes

ICO rules on Ofsted inspectors' notes

ICO press release
9 October 2008
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has ordered Ofsted to release a redacted version of the handwritten evidence forms completed during an inspection of St Patrick’s Primary School in Bristol. In the ICO’s view, releasing the information under the Freedom of Information Act would add to public knowledge and understanding about the performance of the school and the outcome of the inspection. The ICO also found that a substantial amount of the information in the forms was personal data relating to teachers, pupils, non teaching staff and a staff member from another school and should be withheld.
Assistant Information Commissioner, Steve Wood, ruled that as the school is publicly funded and accountable, disclosure of some of the information from the evidence forms is in the public interest. The ICO does not consider that the school inspection process would be significantly prejudiced by the disclosure and rejected Ofsted’s argument that the school would be less willing to cooperate fully in future inspections, even if negative comments were made public. The ruling also finds that any inhibition that an interviewee would feel as a result of disclosure could be reduced through the awareness that their comments will not be directly attributable to them.
Full press release.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Information Tribunal website has new search application

A new search application on the Information Tribunal's website allows you to search decisions by jurisdictional area, subject, appeal no., party and date.

The new database also displays where case summaries are available.
FOI Policy Research Project - invitation to bid

The Information Commissioner is inviting bids to research and produce a report to further understanding of government policy making in the context of freedom of information.

The project will examine policy formulation and development in central government, to assist in the further development of the Commissioner’s policy framework for casework related to the exemption under section 35(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 – ‘information which relates to the formulation or development of government policy’.

Bids should arrive no later than 09:00 on Friday 31 October 2008.

Understanding the formulation and development of government policy in the context of FOI: invitation to bid (pdf)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Fancy being the next Information Commissioner?

This advert for a new Information Commissioner to succeed Richard Thomas appeared in The Sunday Times on 26th September.
Salary: Six figure package
Location: Wilmslow, Cheshire

A new Information Commissioner is sought to take up post in the summer of 2009. The successful candidate will be an outstanding individual with a strong professional track record, able to take and defend difficult decisions, engage with a wide range of stakeholders from the public and private sectors, lead an organisation growing to around 350 staff and be the public face of best practice on access to information on one hand and the protection of personal information on the other. The Commissioner's Office is based in Wilmslow and has four regional offices. Frequent travel within the UK and abroad will be required. This appointment is for five years. For more information you can obtain the full information pack from our employment agency advisers, Saxton Bampfylde at quoting reference DJCG or email DJCG@SAXBAM.COM or telephone +44 (0)1483 409 713 (during office hours). Packs can be obtained in various formats, including Braille, on request. Applications should arrive no later than noon on Tuesday 21 October 2008.