Public bodies 'need transparency charter' as Francis Maude launches FOI review

A local government comms man has called for public sector bodies to launch their own 'transparency charters', following news that the Government could ease the rules on Freedom of Information requests.

Francis Maude: rules could be relaxed on FOI requests
Francis Maude: rules could be relaxed on FOI requests

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has revealed that the rules could be relaxed on FOI requests, in order for ‘the most ambitious open data agenda of any government in the world’ to be launched.

Maude has launched a public consultation that includes consideration of lifting the time limit and changing the fee structure of FOI requests.

FOI requests already contribute to a large part of public sector comms officers' workloads in central and local government.

But Westminster City Council head of strategy Giles Roca said public sector bodies should not wait until these proposals are enacted but should have their own ‘transparency charter’ that looks to make available as much information as possible.

‘Done this way the information becomes less of a story and will reduce costs,' said Roca. 'Comms people need to be making this argument internally within their organisations and convincing chief executives and leaders that this is the only game in town.’

Last year PRWeek columnist and London Communications Agency director Luke Blair wrote: 'Thousands of public officials, many of them in "communications", are toiling away to comply with FOI requests on everything from taxi receipts and toilet paper to hair transplants and homeopathic remedies. I wonder if this is what the creators of the FOI legislation originally had in mind? I wonder if they had any idea how much it would all cost, and to what effect?'

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