The Independent Commission on Freedom of Information, tasked with the job of examining the Freedom of Information Act over the last ten years, published its report earlier last week. The resounding opinion was that overall the Act is “working well” and there will be no wholesale changes.
In our previous blog post we had hoped that we would see even more transparency in Government contracting, purchasing, invoicing and service performance, and to this extent the Commission appears to agree. It intends to spread transparency throughout public services, making sure all public bodies routinely publish details of senior pay and perks. However, the Commission could only express an opinion (not make any recommendations) that the Act should be extended to those who are providing public services under contract.
Those public bodies inundated with FOI requests may be disappointed with the Commission’s recommendation that monetary charges should not be introduced.
Overall it appears that the Commission has drawn a careful balance between being more sympathetic to greater openness, while also backing some changes that would help public authorities to keep some material secret. It will be interesting to see where the balance is struck when Government begins to implement the Commission’s recommendations.