New DP and IG Practitioner Apprenticeship

Act Now Training has teamed up with Damar Training on materials and expertise underpinning its new Data Protection and Information Governance Practitioner Level 4 Apprenticeship.

The apprenticeship, which received final approval in March, will help develop the skills of those working in the increasingly important fields of data protection and information governance. 

With the rapid advancement of technology, there is a huge amount of personal data being processed by organisations, which is the subject of important decisions affecting every aspect of people’s lives. This poses significant legal and ethical challenges, as well as the risk of incurring considerable fines from regulators for non compliance. 

This apprenticeship aims to develop individuals into accomplished data protection and information governance practitioners with the knowledge, skills and competencies to address these challenges.

Ibrahim Hasan, Director of Act Now, said:

“We are excited to be working Damar Training to help deliver this much needed apprenticeship. We are committed to developing the IG sector and encouraging a diverse range of entrants to the IG profession. We have looked at every aspect of the IG Apprenticeship standard to ensure the training materials equip budding IG officers with the knowledge and skills they need to implement the full range of IG legislation in a practical way.

Damar’s managing director, Jonathan Bourne, added:

“We want apprenticeships to create real, long-term value for apprentices and organisations. It is vital therefore that we work with partners who really understand not only the technical detail but also the needs of employers.

Act Now Training are acknowledged as leaders in the field, having recently won the Information and Records Management Society (IRMS) Supplier of the Year award for the second consecutive year. I am delighted therefore that we are able to bring together their 20 years of deep sector expertise with Damar’s 40+ year record of delivering apprenticeship in business and professional services.

This apprenticeship has already sparked significant interest, particularly among large public and private sector organisations and professional services firms. Damar has also assembled an employer reference group that is feeding into the design process in real time to ensure that the programme works for employers.

The employer reference group met for the first time on May 25. It included industry professionals across a variety of sectors including private and public health care, financial services, local and national government, education, IT and data consultancy, some of whom were part of the apprenticeship trailblazer group.

If your organisation is interested in the apprenticeship please get in touch with us to discuss further.

FOI Under Attack

Last week, a government minister called the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) a “truly malign piece of legislation”. Lord Callanan, a minister at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, made the comments during a parliamentary debate. He was defending the government’s decision that FOI should not apply to a new Defence research agency

It is not surprising that a government minister has expressed his dislike of FOI. The Act is very popular amongst politicians but only when they are in opposition. This view rapidly changes when they take up government positions and are on the receiving end of FOI requests. Tony Blair introduced the Act but regretted it in his memoirs, calling himself “a naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop”.

This new attack on FOI is not just about the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA) and whether it should be subject to FOI. This a minister expressing his frustrations about legislation which has no doubt made the Government’s life more difficult especially during the Pandemic. Information requests have been made about key government decisions, the actions of advisers in allegedly breaking lockdown rules (Barnard Castle) and the award of lucrative PPE supplies contracts to companies who seemingly have little experience of the health sector. In July, the Information Commissioner launched an investigation into reports that ministers and senior officials have been using private correspondence channels, such as Whatsapp and private email accounts, to conduct sensitive official business. 

FOI allows the public to see how their money is being spent. It is extraordinary that a body like ARIA, which is responsible for spending £800 million of public funds over four years, should be free from the scrutiny that applies to the whole public sector including small parish councils. ARIA will be tasked with handing out lucrative research contracts and so the public have a right to know how their money will be spent.


Lord Callanan also said that charging the public fees for requesting government information was an “excellent idea”. This idea has also been backed by the incoming Information Commissioner, John Edwards. He told a committee of MPs in September that it was “legitimate” to ask the public to meet the cost of digging out the relevant information.

One of the governments arguments for introducing fees is that it costs money to deal with complex freedom of information request. However the current legislation already allows for fees to be charged if a request takes more than 18 hours to deal with or 24 hours if made to a government department. 

Introducing a flat fee or fees for all requests, will undermine the public’s trust in government. At a time when the economy is weak and the cost of living is going up, why should the public have to pay for information that has been gathered by public bodies using public funds? In a sense they would be asked to pay for it twice. Fees also mean that only the rich would be able to scrutinise and challenge decisions made by public bodies which affect their lives. 

It could be that Lord Callanan’s comments signal the start of a government attempt to weaken FOI. If this is the case, bearing in mind Boris Johnson’s parliamentary majority, we should all be concerned. The Government must lead by example and not weaken FOI because it is a hindrance.

Watch Ibrahim Hasan’s interview with RT News here.

Looking for an FOI qualification? We have one place left on our online FOI Practitioner Certificate course starting in January. 

Leading Information Lawyer Joins the Act Now Team
















Act Now Training welcomes solicitor and information law expert, Kate Grimley Evans, to its team of associates. Kate specialises in helping clients with all aspects of data protection and freedom of information. She was formerly the Head of Information Law at Stone King LLP. She has also worked for other top law firms including Eversheds and Mills & Reeve. Kate is currently a Consultant Solicitor for Bates Wells and Kesteven Partners Limited.

Kate is an expert in her field and has specialist knowledge of data protection compliance in the education and charity law sectors. She is the author of the leading guidance on data protection and information law matters for the museums’ sector and is currently writing a chapter (on schools) for an Oxford University Press book on data protection.

Kate has spoken at high profile conferences such as the Grammar School Heads’ Association Conference, Institute of School Business Leaders Conference and the Optimus Education Conference. Like our other associate Susan Wolf, Kate is a Fee Paid Member of the Upper Tribunal assigned to the Administrative Appeals Chamber (Information Rights Jurisdiction) and First Tier Tribunal General Regulatory Chamber (Information Rights Jurisdiction). 

Ibrahim Hasan, director of Act Now Training, said:

“I am delighted that Kate has joined our team. Her wealth of experience in the education and charity sectors, will help us develop further our training and consultancy offerings to these important sectors.”

In time Kate will be delivering all the workshops on our current programme as well as developing new ones. She will also be available to conduct audits and health checks and deliver in house training particularly for charities and schools. 

Learn about the latest GDPR developments in next week’s GDPR Update workshop. We have a one place left on our Advanced Certificate in GDPR Practice course starting in January.

Reflections of an Act Now FOI Trainer

Susan Wolf writes…

They say time flies when you are having fun. Well, I must have been having fun because I can’t quite believe I have been training with Act Now for over 12 months. Really where has the time gone? During my time at the University of Northumbria I developed the habit of keeping a journal in which I reflected on my teaching. Old habits die hard and I have continued this practice now that I am a regular Act Now training consultant. Looking back over my journal for the last 12 months a number of common themes became apparent. I thought it might be interesting to share these. However before I do, I just want to thank all the delegates I have met for challenging me, keeping me on my toes and reminding me how interesting life can be in Freedom of Information Land.

Training practitioners is not something new to me. For over 11 years I taught FOI practitioners on the Northumbria University LLM in Information Rights Law & Practice Degree. However, the Act Now courses, with their focus on practical training have exposed me to a wider range of people, from a wide range of public sector organisations, all trying to get to grips with broadly similar issues. From the most experienced practitioner who wants a ‘top up course’ to the absolute beginner who has just landed their first job in information rights, all practitioners appear to share some common concerns and worries.

There are also some widely shared misconceptions which still seem to cause the odd debate, despite the Freedom of Information Act 2000 being almost 15 years old. For instance, I have heard some delegates say that the ‘clock start’s ticking’ on a FOI request on the day it is received by a public authority. I have also heard delegates talk about fines that the ICO can impose for breaches of the Freedom of Information Act. Those are always good to correct, and it is nice to hear the sigh of relief when they are advised correctly on these points.

However, I also frequently get asked questions that there are, quite simply, no definitive answers to. In good ‘lawyer’ tradition I could say ‘well that depends’ but that isn’t always what people want to hear. For example, I have been asked questions about how far a public authority must go in advising and assisting an applicant, or how many times they need to go back to the applicant to clarify a tricky request. Another question that taxes people is how long it is reasonable to wait between requests before engaging S. 14 (2) for repeated requests. These are always good for some discussion, but often time is limited on a one-day course, particularly when delegates quite rightly expect we cover all the course content.

Other misconceptions or worries centre on issues relating to the redaction of staff names in email correspondence; how to distinguish between ‘business as usual’ questions and FOI requests; or the significance of ‘confidentiality’ markings on information provided by third party contractors. The ‘new’ Freedom of Information 2018 Code of Practice addresses some of these issues. However not all FOI practitioners are necessarily aware of the provisions of the new Code. Of course, it is difficult for practitioners, who are undoubtedly over-burdened, to keep up to date and on top of things, or indeed for us to cover these issues in detail in a one-day course. One way of keeping up to date is to read our Act Now blogs, which are all written by Act Now consultants and which deal with new developments and case law. However, this journey of reflection has made me realise that it would be useful to write some ‘Back to Basics’ blogs that address some of the issues and concerns that I know FOI practitioners share. Over the coming months we will be publishing a series of ‘FOI Basics Blogs’ on the issues raised during our one-day FOI courses starting with a blog on ‘Business as Usual or FOI Request’?

For those FOI practitioners who want to take their training and understanding to the next level, Act Now Training now offer a 4-day FOI Practitioner Certificate this course is modelled on the highly successful GDPR Practitioner Certificate and was launched in May 2019. We have now delivered it seven times and it is absolutely clear this model enables FOI practitioners to develop a more detailed knowledge and understanding of the FOI in practice. It gives delegates the chance to explore the exemptions in far more detail over two days, with Day 3 focussing on the most frequently used exemptions, including Sections 40 and 43. The course also prepares delegates for writing a Refusal Notice which forms part of the final assessment.

Delegates have given very positive feedback:

“The course was very well structured and well timed. The length of the course was ideal as this gave sufficient time to discuss all areas relating to FOI and also gave candidates ample time for discussion and study. The trainer was very supportive and the knowledge that has been imparted has enabled me to develop the FOI function with our organisation. Highly Recommended.”
JW, Heywood Middleton and Rochdale NHS

“The course was excellent and really sets you up for the exam, I would recommend it to others working in the field. I have put what I learned on the course to good use as I am a FOI and DPA Manager in a very busy post with lots of business each and every day; many of the requests are unusual. The course and now passing the exam have given me the confidence to do my job.”
JH, NI Courts and Tribunals Service

“Thank you for a great course – as always all the trainers at Act Now are extremely knowledgeable, approachable and make the learning experience really enjoyable.”
KF, St Helens Council

As you can see Delegates are enjoying the course content and delivery style. Most importantly they are able to take away their gained knowledge and apply it to their everyday role with confidence. After all, that is the purpose and objective of a course such as this. It makes me immensely proud and pleased to be able to be a part of the team that helps delegates in this way everyday and I look forward to the next 12 months.

Susan Wolf is a trainer for Act Now Training. She has over ten years experience teaching information rights practitioners on the LLM Information Rights Law & Practice at Northumbria University. All our trainers are available to deliver customised in house training, health checks and audits. Please read the testimonials from satisfied clients and get in touch for a quote.

Act Now’s FOI Practitioner Certificate: The Story So Far

At the end of 2018 Act Now announced the launch of its new FOI Practitioner Certificate. In keeping with the company’s ethos of delivering on the ground practical training, the new course is designed to meet the needs of practitioners and to enable them to fulfil their roles as FOI Officers.

Act Now is pleased to inform readers that in May and June the first two cohorts of delegates attended our fully booked courses in London and Manchester respectively.
The courses were designed and delivered by Susan Wolf, formerly a senior lecturer on the University of Northumbria’s LLM in Information Rights Law.

The course has so far attracted delegates from a range of public authorities, including the Crown Prosecution Service, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCGA), Nursing and Midwifery Council, University of West London, Dudley CCG, Land Registry, Lancashire Council, Cheshire Police and St Leger Homes,

Susan says:

 “I have looked at every aspect of this revised course to ensure it equips FOI officers with the knowledge they need to tackle FOI in a practical way.”

The course uses the same format as our very successful GDPR Practitioner Certificate.
It takes place over four days (one day per week) and involves lectures, discussion and practical drafting exercises. All delegates are encouraged to actively participate and share their experiences, in order to create an inclusive environment.  Over the coming months, further courses will be delivered by Susan, Ibrahim Hasan and Philip Jones.

What’s new?

The new course offers several innovations, which Act Now believes makes the it distinctive and highly relevant to FOI Officers and other practitioners with responsibility for providing access to public information. One innovation is that time is made available each day for delegates to reflect on what they have learned and how it will inform their practice. From her experience of delivering of training the first two cohorts, Susan noted:

Delegates were able to share their experiences and problems, and more importantly offer suggestions for tackling problems.  This was particularly useful for delegates with limited FOI experience, or from smaller organisations, who were able to take away practical suggestions about how to handle requests and deal with the exemptions.

The course also encourages delegates to become independent learners and provides guidance on ‘keeping up to date’ and understanding how cases are handled by the First Tier Information Rights Tribunal.  Susan says:

The law isn’t static; we keep getting new ICO guidance, based on Tribunal and Court decisions. It is important that FOI practitioners understand the importance of keeping up to date, and how to do this.”

The assessment of the course is innovative and modern. The assessment model will be very familiar to people who have undertaken our GDPR Practitioner Certificate. First delegates must complete a one-hour MCQ test. This is  worth 30% of the overall assessment. The remaining 70% involves a written project.  Delegates are given a practical scenario which requires them to draft a Refusal Notice and explain how they would handle the request and their selection of exemptions. All delegates receive detailed feedback on their written projects. Our Scottish FOISA course also now follows the same format.

Susan says:

The assessment has been designed to be relevant and useful; I can see little point in giving delegates a task that has no meaning to their practice.  Instead we want our delegates to feel like the assessment will inform their practice and enable them to enhance and develop their skills. Writing a robust refusal notice is an essential skill for FOI practitioners and lies at the heart of our assessment on this course.”

The delegate feedback so far has been excellent and it seems that this course has plugged a gap in the market:

An excellent course taught by someone with all the relevant knowledge and experience to impart to the delegates. Also very useful course materials which have proved to be helpful to me on a day to day basis in my job. I would really recommend this course to anyone who is dealing with FOI’s in their job.
JC, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)

Ibrahim Hasan (Director of Act Now Training) says:

“We are pleased that this new FOI certificate course is meeting the training needs of FOI officers. Because of its emphasis on practical skills, we are confident that it will become the qualification of choice for current and future FOI Officers and advisers.”

More venues have been added for this course including Belfast. All our courses can be delivered at your premises at a substantially reduced cost.

Contact us for more information.

Act Now Launches New FOI Practitioner Certificate


Act Now is pleased to announce the launch of its brand new FOI Practitioner Certificate.

This course is one of the first of its kind, in a way that only Act Now delivers – practical, on the ground skills to help you fulfil your role as an FOI Officer.

This new certificate course is ideal for those wishing to acquire detailed knowledge of FOI and related information access legislation (including EIR) in a practical context. It has been designed by leading FOI experts including Ibrahim Hasan and Susan Wolf – formerly a senior lecturer on the University of Northumbria’s LLM in Information
Rights Law.

The course uses the same format as our very successful GDPR Practitioner Certificate. It takes place over four days (one day per week) and involves lectures, discussion and practical drafting exercises. This format has been extremely well received by over 1000  delegates who have completed the course. Time will also be spent at the end of each day discussing what issues delegates may face when implementing/advising on the FOI topics of the day.

The four teaching days are followed by an online assessment and a practical project to be completed within 30 days.

Why is this course different?

  • An emphasis on practical application of FOI rather than rote learning
  • Lots of real life case studies and exercises
  • An emphasis on drafting Refusal Notices
  • An online Resource Lab with links, guidance and over 5 hours of videos
  • Modern assessment methods rather than a closed book exam

 Who should attend?

This course is suitable for anyone working within the public sector who needs to learn about FOI and related legislation in a practical context, as well as those with the requisite knowledge wishing to have it recognised through a formal qualification. It is most suitable for:

  • FOI Officers
  • Data Protection Officers
  • Compliance Officers
  • Auditors
  • Legal Advisers

Susan, says:

“FOI and EIR are almost 14 years old. Since the Act and Regulations came into force there have been many legal developments and court decisions that have given practitioners a much greater understanding of the legal provisions and how they should be applied in practice. With this in mind, we have written this course to ensure that it equips public sector officers with all the necessary knowledge and skills they need to respond to freedom of information requests accurately and efficiently. This course, with its emphasis on the law in practice, will enable trainees to become more accomplished and confident FOI practitioners”

Susan will share her vast experience gained through years of helping organisations comply with their information rights legislation obligations. This, together with a comprehensive set of course materials and guidance notes, will mean that delegates will not only be in a position to pass the course assessment but to learn valuable skills which they will be able to apply in their workplaces for years to come.

This new course builds on Act Now’s reputation for delivering practical training at an affordable price:

This new course widens the choice of qualifications for IG practitioners and advisers. Ibrahim Hasan (Director of Act Now Training) commented:

“We are pleased be able to launch this new qualification. Because of its emphasis on practical skills, we are confident that it will become the qualification of choice for current and future FOI Officers and advisers.”

To learn more please visit our website.

All our courses can be delivered at your premises at a substantially reduced cost.
Contact us for more information.

Public Health Funerals, Heir Hunters and Freedom of Information


Local authorities are seeing a substantial increase in the number of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from heir tracing companies for information about those who have had public health funerals. Recent appeal decisions from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) may help to stem the tide.

UK intestacy law states that when someone dies with no will or known family, everything they own passes to the Crown as ownerless property (or ‘Bona Vacantia’). This includes their house, money and personal possessions. Companies who find missing heirs are in a very lucrative business (watch “Heir Hunters” on the BBC). Some require beneficiaries to enter into an agreement to share up to 40% of their inheritance.

In England and Wales, the Bona Vacantia Division (BVD) of the Treasury Solicitor’s Department is responsible for dealing with bona vacantia assets. Everyday BVD publishes an Unclaimed Asset List setting out unclaimed estates which have been recently referred, but not yet administered, and historic cases which have not yet been claimed by entitled relatives. Included in the list is the deceased name, area of death, marital status, place of birth and local authority informant. Sometimes other details will be given (if known) such as spouse’s name, place of marriage and nationality. The list is updated every working day and newly advertised estates appear at the top of the list.

This list is a good starting point for probate researchers but the competition to trace beneficiaries is very fierce and often a number of companies will be trying to trace the same person. That is why such companies often make FOI requests to councils to try and get hold of the information before any of it is passed on to the BVD to publish. If they can identify deceased individuals who may have left a substantial estate, they will have a head start (in tracing the beneficiaries) against their rivals who will not yet be privy to such information.

Many councils have chosen to put a lot of this information on their website; Redbridge, Northampton, Knowsley to name a few. This then allows them to claim the exemption under section 21 of FOI (information is reasonably accessible by other means). Often though the researchers want more than the basic information, which is published by councils.

Of course, where the requested information has been disclosed to the BVD (or is about to be disclosed) and it will appear on the published BVD list, it is open to the council to claim the exemption under section 22 (information intended for future publication). It does not matter that the council will not be publishing the information itself as long as there is a settled intention to publish it on the part of another (in this case the BVD). Section 22 is a qualified exemption and so subject to the public interest test.

Where the information requested by probate researchers is not published, many councils have claimed the exemption in section 31 arguing that disclosure would prejudice the prevention of crime. Some recent ICO appeal decisions lend support to this approach. In a decision involving Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council (FS50586033) the complainant requested, amongst other things, details of deceased people who had had public health funerals (including names, last known address, date of birth, date of death, date of funeral, and whether the case has been/will be/or even might be referred to the Treasury Solicitor).

The ICO agreed with the council that section 31 applied and it was not in the public interest to disclose the information. Release of personal details of a deceased individual with no known relatives, and no will, may make the assets of that person vulnerable. The assets of the deceased need to be secured and disclosure of the information may lead to the commission of offences (e.g. arson, identity theft etc.) and cause loss to the unsecured estates. In terms of the public interest the Commissioner states (paragraph 38):

“The Commissioner recognises that there is an inherently strong public interest in avoiding likely prejudice to the prevention of crime. The crime in this case would be likely to include a diverse range from anti-social behaviour, criminal damage, arson, organised groups stripping empty properties to identity fraud and the crimes that can be committed using false documents. The Commissioner accepts that tackling issues like these would involve significant public expense and believes it is in the public interest to protect property and to ensure that public resources are used efficiently. He also accepts that there is a strong public interest in avoiding personal distress to the direct victims of the crime and, in the case of crime related to empty properties, to those in the wider neighbourhood who may be affected.”

Similar decisions were made in complaints involving Birmingham City Council (FS50584670) and the London Borough of Bexley FS50583220. I have still not come across a First Tier Tribunal decision on such requests and so the exemptions, especially section 31, have yet to be comprehensively explored.

Some councils have argued that section 41 (Breach of Confidence) may apply to some of the information requested about the deceased. This can only be the case if the information has come from another party and is highly confidential. Section 41 is unlikely to apply to most requests from probate researchers. For a detailed discussion on access to information about the deceased under FOI, read my article and blog post.

Give your career a boost in 2016 by gaining an internationally recognised qualification in FOI. Keep up to date with all the latest FOI decisions by attending our live webinars and FOI workshops.

Is the Freedom of Information Act ‘working effectively’?

Image by Kevan via Creative Commons

By Steven McGinty

In July, Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office, Lord Bridges, announced that there would be an independent cross-party review on Freedom of Information (FOI).

The UK’s FOI Act was introduced in 2000 (in Scotland, FOI legislation came into force in 2005). The Act requires public bodies to publish certain information about their activities and to respond to requests for information from the public.

Since its introduction, the FOI Act has facilitated the release of information from across government. The most high profile releases have involved MPs’ expenses and correspondence between British diplomats ridiculing the notion of a widespread increase in migration from Poland to the UK, once they joined the EU.

Lord Bridges explained that the review would focus on three main issues:

  • whether there is an appropriate balance between having a transparent and accountable government and the need for sensitive information to be protected;
  • whether the Act adequately recognises the need to have a ‘safe space’ for policy development and implementation;
  • whether there is an appropriate balance between the need for public access to information and the burden on public bodies of providing this.

However, is this review really necessary?

Over recent years, a number of public figures have voiced their concerns over the Act. Even the man who introduced it, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, has stated that he was a “naive foolish, irresponsible nincompoop” to introduce it. He also suggested that it undermined “sensible government”.

Similarly, the former head of the Civil Service, Lord O’Donnell has argued that the requirement to release Cabinet minutes risked preventing “real discussions” between ministers.

There has also been discontent from local government, struggling to shoulder the financial cost of the Act. For instance, Ken Thornber, leader of Hampshire County Council, stated that:

We spent £365,000 in 2010 answering freedom of information requests. What else could I do with that money? More social workers, more school inspectors, more spent on road maintenance.”

Although clearly frustrated by the Act, he doesn’t suggest withdrawing it. Instead, he proposes the idea of a £25 charge. His hope is that this would deter individuals from making ‘frivolous requests’.

In the 2010, University College London’s (UCL) Constitution Unit estimated that the cost of FOI requests for local government was £31.6 million. It also highlighted that civil servants spent 1.2m hours responding to nearly 200,000 requests.

Safeguards already exist

However, the review also has its opponents. For example, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the World Wide Web, has attacked the government’s decision. In particular, he criticises the UK Government for using its position at the top of the World Wide Web Foundation’s Open Data Barometer (annual worldwide survey of open government) to justify the review.

Anne Jellema, Chief Executive of the World Wide Web Foundation, has also added her disapproval. She explains that the UK’s position at the top of the Open Data Barometer should not be an excuse to undo the progress that has been made. In addition, she claims that the government is behind European countries on other transparency and accountability issues, such as state surveillance and freedom of the press.

The Campaign for Freedom of Information has raised concerns over the review panel. It highlights that there are no panel members with a proven commitment to transparency. Currently, the five person committee consists of high profile political figures, such as former Conservative Home Secretary Michael Howard and former Labour Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

The Act has been praised for holding public bodies to account. For instance, the Daily Telegraph discovered that local authorities spent £2m on hotel bills over just 3 years, including stays at the Four Seasons in New York.

There are also those who maintain that safeguards are already in place. For example, section 35 of the Act provides a qualified exemption, which limits the release of information to the public. This safeguard is explicitly aimed at protecting the policy-making process.

A key challenge for any state is to strike the appropriate balance between effective governance and public accountability. Yet, with so many differing views, universal agreement is unlikely.  Therefore, no matter the outcome of the review, it’s likely that this debate will continue.

Steven McGinty is Research Officer at the Knowledge Exchange. This blog post has been republished with his kind permission.

Read Ibrahim Hasan’s FOI predictions here

Our forthcoming FOI workshops will look at these and other developments.

The FOI response arriving on platform two is 18 months late…

The request went in at the end of 2013. You can read the post again here and only 18 months after the original request during which time the east cost franchise changed hands. East Coast (government owned) failed to reply for 14 months and when I wrote to Virgin trains (the new owners) earlier this year I didn’t expect much but today the reply arrived.

“I am contacting further to your correspondence regarding information relating to taxis arranged from London King’s Cross station.

I apologise for the delay in responding to you; regrettably an administrative error prevented a previous response from being sent and I am sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused.

You have requested to know the number of times we supplied taxis to passengers arriving at Kings Cross on delayed trains, the total cost of these taxis and the total number of passengers and taxis involved. We do not have records comprehensive enough to fully provide this information however we have reviewed our taxi invoices for 2014 which shows that in that year there was a total of 1800 taxi jobs arranged with a total cost of £254,024.62. Regrettably we are unable to advise of the number of people these taxi jobs were arranged for or the reason why the taxis were arranged as this information is not recorded.”

Well done to Virgin – a Blue Riband to you. Poor show from East Coast – a purple shirt and tie set for your avoidance of FOI for 14 months.

Give your career a boost by gaining an internationally recognised qualification in FOI. No time/budget to attend courses? Keep up to date with all the latest FOI decisions by viewing our live one-hour web seminars.

I Don’t Believe It! Fees for FOI Tribunal Appeals

Just when you thought FOI was safe (“Oh no we didn’t! Not after that Cabinet Office packed the new FOI Commission with people who don’t particularly care about FOI”, I hear you say), The Ministry of Justice has announced a consultation into changes to fees for, amongst others, FOI appeals at tribunal stage.

If the proposal goes ahead, it will cost £100 to apply for an appeal to the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) or the Upper Tribunal (if the case is transferred), and £500 for an oral hearing. Christopher Knight of 11 KBW has produced a helpful summary in this post on the Panopticon Blog.

This proposal is not a great surprise. In July 2012, the Justice Select Committee published its Report into Post-Legislative Scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The Government published its official response in December 2012 and paragraph 24 mentioned the possibility of introducing tribunal fees despite the Committee never suggesting it.

Introducing tribunal fees is clearly an attempt to curtail the public’s right to know in the guise of cost saving. The Campaign for Freedom of Information are mounting a vigorous defence of FOI. We should all try and contribute. Readers can also sign the 38 Degrees Petition to protect FOI laws.

Tribunal fees will have a big impact on the number of challenges to public authority decisions. Overworked FOI Officers may initially see cause for celebration. However if fewer appeals are heard the quality of FOI caselaw on important matters of interpretation will suffer. Consequently application of the FOI exemptions, as well as other provision, will become more difficult. This alone is a good reason for a robust response to the consultation from the public sector.

The consultation paper and the impact assessment on tribunal fees are both on the Ministry of Justice website. The deadline for responses is 15th September 2015.

What else is afoot for FOI? I looked into my crystal ball, after the election, to predict how FOI could change now we have a Conservative majority government. It will be interesting to see how many of my predictions come true when the FOI Commission reports back in November.

Don’t forget on 18th July 2015 the new Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015 (ROPSI) came into force, replacing the 2005 version. They contain some important changes to the UK public sector information re use regime.

Ibrahim Hasan will be reviewing the latest FOI developments and caselaw in detail, in our forthcoming FOI Update webinar.

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