Make all companies owned 90 per cent. or more by any number of public authorities subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

There is a major loophole in the UK’s Freedom of Information Act which means that a company wholly owned by one local authority is subject to the Act but a company owned by two local authorities is not. Currently a company owned 95% or even 99.5% by a single public authority is not subject to the provisions of the act, as only companies owned 100% by a single authority are currently covered.  This just does not make any sense.

I propose closing this loophole to make publicly owned companies accountable to the public.

Why is this idea important?

Public authorities working together or even setting up jointly owned companies can lead to real cost savings and we may see more such companies set up as a response to economic pressures. What can cause problems though is the loss of accountability which occurs when public bodies come together and set up these companies without requiring them to follow the highest standards of openness, transparency and accountability.

Examples of Companies Which Would Be Made Subject to FOI if the Loophole was Closed:

  • Connexions Nottinghamshire Limited – provides support services to young people and is jointly owned by Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council.
  • Coventry and Solihull Waste Disposal Company – owned two thirds by Coventry City Council and one third by Solihull MBC
  • G-Mex Limited – Through its ownership of Destination Manchester Ltd and investment in Modesole Ltd, Manchester City Council has a 95% shareholding in G-Mex Limited
  • Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) – this company is the official agency for the collection, analysis and dissemination of quantitative information about higher education.
  • Manchester Airport PLC – the Manchester Airport Group is owned by the ten local authorities of Greater Manchester
  • The Russell Group – is owned by, and represents 20 of the UK’s largest universities, the company’s aims as set out in documents filed on incorporation included “to influence and make representations to stakeholders and legislators”

These are just examples, there are thousands more such companies.  Please support this idea in any way you can.

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