Looming information act prompts ICO media push

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has launched a media relations push as it gears up for the Freedom of Information Act, which comes into effect in January.

Looming information act prompts ICO media push

Targeting public sector communications staff, the ICO is warning that information accessible to the public could be controversial. Retained agency Citigate Communications is managing the campaign.

‘People will ask questions that they have not asked before,’ said Citigate director James Ford. ‘Public sector comms workers need to be aware of the controversial information that local authorities may have to disclose, such as information about mergers, closures, service delivery and the profit that the private sector is making in PFI deals.’

The push will target central and local government audiences working across healthcare, education, planning, environment and social services through the trade press and via national press specialist correspondents.

Ford said: ‘From January, UK citizens will have new information rights. Access to official information will become a “right to know”, rather than a “need to know”. This is good news – now the public will have more access to official information.’

Citigate is warning public sector PROs to ensure they have checked all five points on its Freedom of Information checklist before the act comes into force.

The checklist recommends appointing a dedicated officer to deal with the act and to make sure that there is an internal complaints system in place to ensure appeals regarding information released or retained can be answered.

It also recommends that public authorities should be able to respond to requests for information within 20 days.

Overseeing the campaign is recently appointed ICO director of comms Susan Fox, who joined in October.

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