There needs to be a review of the Freedom of Information Act with a particular emphasis upon the cost of the administrative burden that it is placing upon public authorities. There is a paradox inherent in the drive towards increased openness and transparency, in that the more one commits public authorities towards such aims, the more resource one needs to apply towards satisfying such aims. The conclusion is that one unintentionally creates more of what one is trying to do away with – complexity, bureaucracy and increased secrecy.

Why is this idea important?

The Act claims to improve transparency and openness but has succeeded in creating a large bureaucracy to support its administration within public authorities. My experience of its application (within the Higher Education sector) has resulted in the diversion of valuable and increasingly rare resources being diverted from core activities with little to be gained from the perspective of the institutions involved, or in terms of extending transparency or highlighting matters of wider 'public interest'. The 'hidden cost' of its administration is significant. The role of the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) in adjudicating on decisions highlights how bureaucratic its application has become. A recent ICO decision notice running to some 24 pages on whether an individual can have access to a Government Departments emails containing the word "embarrassing" serves to highlight the waste of time and resource this piece of legislation has engendered. Further extension of the legislation will only require further resource to be directed towards its application and administration. Without due regard to some checks and balances, this will only increase bureaucracy and waste at a time when paradoxically Government is trying to reduce it.

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