Thursday, November 25, 2010

ICO under financial pressure from MoJ

The minutes from the latest Information Commissioner's management board meeting show that the ICO is facing significant financial pressure from the Ministry of Justice.
It was reported that £160k of grant in aid had been surrendered to the MoJ as year-in savings...The MoJ had however asked about further in-year savings of grant in aid. Discussions with the MoJ were ongoing. It was noted that the business case for £500k of grant in aid to clear the backlog of freedom of information cases this year has yet to be agreed.
Any reduction in grant-in-aid risks reversing the substantial progress that has been made by the ICO in reducing the backlog over the last 12-18 months.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

FOI Disclosure Stories November 1st-18th

8,000 vulnerable children denied social workers – 17/11/10
Councils have failed to allocate social workers to more than 8,000 vulnerable children across the country, a Community Care investigation revealed after making a Freedom of Information request.

27,000 NHS jobs to go, says Royal College of Nursing – The Telegraph 12/11/10
Almost 27,000 NHS jobs could go in cuts across hospitals and other acute services, according to the Royal College of Nursing which compiled information from board meeting papers and Freedom of Information requests.
Read the Royal College of Nursing report

£720k a year: Camden’s bill for housing 20 families - Hampstead & Highgate Express 9/11/10
One family, the highest claimant of housing benefit in Camden, receives a massive £6,565 a month – the equivalent of £78,780 a year, figures released under the Freedom of Information Act state.

Don't knock our flats down, they're all safe, say Bristol residents - Bristol Evening Post 03/11/10
Residents campaigning to save homes earmarked for demolition say councillors have been making decisions based on false statements according to official council documents obtained stating that the properties are structurally sound and can be refurbished.

Chocfinger’s Tory donation pays off – The Sunday Times 31/10/10
The secretary of state for international development intervened to help a cocoa trader beat sanctions for smuggling in Ghana according to internal documents released under Freedom of Information.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pickles squashes bid to charge for FOI requests
by Paul Linford

Local government secretary Eric Pickles has moved swiftly to squash an attempt to enable councils to charge newspapers for Freedom of Information requests.

As reported on HTFP yesterday, Hampshire County Council had called for a change in the law to enable local authorities to charge organisations who may benefit commercially from receiving the

The council wanted the Local Government Association to take up its cause with ministers, claiming it spent £346,000 answering FoI requests during 2009-10.

But within hours of our story appearing, Mr Pickles had issued a statement which effectively slammed the door on the idea. He said: "If councillors and council officers are to be held to account, the press and public need access to the information that will enable them to do it.

"If town halls want to reduce the amount they spend on responding to freedom of information requests they should consider making the information freely available in the first place.

"The simple act of throwing open the books, rather than waiting for them to be prised apart by the force of an FoI, might even save a few pounds in the process.

"Greater local accountability is essential to accompany the greater powers and freedoms that the new government is giving to local government."

Mr Pickles' statement will be seen as a shot in the arm for the Society of Editors after its executive director Bob Satchwell criticised the council's move.

Bob said: "It's ludicrous. Hampshire County Council should remember this information doesn't belong to them, it belongs to the public."

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Lords approves FOI (Time for Compliance with Request) Regulations 2010

The House of Lords have approved Regulations giving academy schools more time to respond to Freedom of Information requests during school holidays. The Department for Education minister Nick Gibb recently confirmed that the FOI Act would apply to schools converting to academies from September 2010 and to existing academies from January 2011.

The Regulations ensure that academies will be subject to the same timeframes as the schools covered by The Freedom of Information (Time for Compliance with Request) Regulations 2004 (S.I. 2004/3364) and The Freedom of Information (Time for Compliance with Request) Regulations 2009 (S.I. 2009/1369).

During a short debate on the Regulations, Lord Campbell-Savours  highlighted a case of severe delay by a school responding to FOI requests made by the MP Ann Clywd.