Tuesday, 3 September 2013

New FOI rights miss out most outsourced bodies - CFoIS

#FOI
UNISON Scotland today backed criticism of the Scottish Government that new increased Freedom of Information rights don't go nearly far enough.

The union backed the Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland (CFoIS), which condemned a limited extension as "missing most outsourced bodies" that should be included.

Tomorrow (4 Sept), the Scottish Parliament Local Government & Regeneration Committee has on its agenda the Scottish Government's draft Order which brings local government leisure and cultural trusts under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

But the CFoIS wants MSPs to grill Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, when she comes before the Committee tomorrow, on when FOI will be extended to private prisons, PFI contractors, housing associations and other bodies providing public services.

Carole Ewart, Convener of the CFoIS, said: "While this is a step forward in re-establishing people's right to get information from their public services, it is a very small one."

She said that the public's enforceable right to access information should "apply to all public services that we receive, whoever delivers them."

Research commissioned by the Scottish Information Commissioner in 2011 showed that there is very strong public support for extending FOI rights.

The full CFoIS press release is below and on their website.

(UNISON's response to the Finance Committee's call for evidence on the Freedom of Information Amendment (Scotland) Bill argues for all bodies providing public services to be covered and is on our website here .)



CFoIS Media Release

Increased FoI coverage 'misses most outsourced bodies' - Campaign

The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland (CFoIS) has criticised the narrow Scottish Government draft Order extending coverage of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act to arms-length leisure trusts, as missing out most outsourced bodies.

The Order will be on the agenda of the Parliament's Local Government and Regeneration Committee tomorrow (Wed 4 Sep). It designates some 25 recreation, leisure, sport and cultural trusts set up as arms-length bodies (ALEOs) by Scottish local councils, as public bodies which are covered by freedom of information (FoI) law. This is a very small proportion of outsourced services that public bodies have created, most of which are not covered by FoI.

Carole Ewart, Convener of the CFoIS, said: "While this is a step forward in re-establishing people's right to get information from their public services, it is a very small one. Some years ago Audit Scotland found that there were at least 130 major arms-length bodies delivering our public services. Plus there are private contractors, housing associations, and joint bodies of various types. This order misses most outsourced bodies."

The Campaign is calling on MSPs to grill the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, when she comes before the Committee tomorrow, to ask when other bodies are likely to be covered by the law. Consultation took place in 2010 on extending coverage to: privately-run prisons and prison escort services, trunk roads' PFI contractors, privately built and maintained schools and hospitals, the GHA and the Association of Chief Police Officers, as well as leisure, sport and cultural trusts. There was massive public support for this move, and for even wider coverage.

Carole Ewart said: "Eleven years after FoISA was passed MSPs and the Scottish Government should state clearly that they will extend the public's enforceable right to access information. That right needs to apply to all public services that we receive, whoever delivers them."


Note for Editors:
The Campaign has sent a briefing to all members of the Local Government and Regeneration Committee, outlining these points.

International Right to Know Day is approaching on 28 Sept. The CFoIS will outline further aims and activities soon.

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