Tag Archives: foi

We are proposing to hand away property details at the very point journalists need them most

offshore property private eye

Late last year, as the government indicated it was prepared to water down the Freedom of Information Act, industry publication Press Gazette launched a petition. It was one of a range of factors which led to a promise to leave the Act alone.

This year we face a similar threat. But the industry press is silent. Press Gazette say nothing. Hold The Front Page is empty of reference.

What am I talking about? The Land Registry.

The government is holding a consultation on moving Land Registry operations to the private sector, and with one week left the industry press needs to wake up. Continue reading

VIDEO: FOI tips from Matt Burgess

In a guest post for OJB, Anna Noble interviews FOI expert Matt Burgess.

In just 4 years Matt Burgess has already built up an impressive reputation in the media industry. The founder of FOI directory, a site which covers FOI policy, curates the best FOI stories, and provides directories of FOI emails, and the author of a book on the subject, his journalistic career has ranged from a local press agency and a crowdsourcing project to specialist publishing, and now technology bible Wired. Continue reading

11 FOI tips and other highlights from ‘FOIA Without the Lawyer’

FOIA Without the Lawyer

This was first posted on the Help Me Investigate blog a couple years ago. I thought it was about time I should cross-post it here also.

A natural companion to Heather Brooke’s introductory Your Right To Know, FOIA Without the Lawyer addresses the challenges that come after the FOI is submitted: the niggling exemptions and excuses used by public bodies to avoid supplying information requested under the Act. Continue reading

If you’re worried about the future of FOI, here’s what you can do about it

Independent front page on FOISo, the commission that has been formed to look into Freedom of Information in the UK is worrying a lot of people, particularly journalists. From the selection of its members and lack of transparency to suggestions of vetoes and charges, there’s a strong signal of an intention to curtail the ‘free’ in ‘freedom’.

But there is an opportunity to have an input into the commission, through its call for evidence. This not only allows you to send your opinions on improving FOI to the commission via email, but also has an online form you can fill in.

If you take the form route there are 2 key questions:

  1. What protection should there be for internal deliberations of public bodies
  2. What protection should there be for information which relates to the process of collective Cabinet discussion and agreement
  3. What protection should there be for information which involves candid assessment of risks
  4. Should the executive have a veto (subject to judicial review) over the release of information
  5. What is the appropriate enforcement and appeal system
  6. And is the burden imposed on public authorities under the Act justified by the public interest in the public’s right to know

Whether you think it’s a foregone conclusion or not, this is a key opportunity to have a shot.

Keeping up to date with FOI and open data: new mailing list launched

Transparency Bulletin by FOIDirectory

Matt Burgess, the man behind FOI Directory (and the former editor of Help Me Investigate Education) has launched a new weekly email newsletter providing regular updates on developments in Freedom of Information and transparency. Continue reading

The slow drain of accountability in watchdog reporting

David Higgerson writes about some depressing recent developments – and equally depressing wider trends – around the lack of transparency in public office and public spending. It’s worth reading:

“The reason this is so important now is because we are on the cusp of another wave of political restructuring. Devolution is on its way to Greater Manchester, and to other major city regions too. Whether you believe this is a good thing or not, there is hopefully no denying that with such major power moves there has to also be a cast-iron guarantee that those making decisions will be accountable.”

And here’s the background:

What to do if your FOI is refused under ‘commercial sensitivity’ and ‘breach of confidence’

If you’re using FOI to ask questions about public services involving private companies it’s quite common to be refused on the basis of ‘commercial sensitivity‘ or ‘breach of confidence‘.

In fact, I’d suggest anticipating this in your initial request – or at the very least pushing for details when you receive any initial refusal.

Both exemptions are often misused by authorities as a ‘catch-all’ reason to fob off a requestor.

But neither exemption is simple, and both have a public interest test element which the authority is supposed to have thought through. In brief there are two things you can do to help your request: Continue reading