The case set out by the Scottish Government for extending the Freedom of Information provisions to housing associations is a highly theoretical one and doesn’t demonstrate the actual, practical advantages, according to the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations.
The consultation paper proposes to bring Scottish housing associations into the FOI legislation on 1 April 2018, subject to the agreement of the Scottish Parliament.
David Bookbinder, Director of GWSF, said:
“We’ll be seeking our members’ views, but an early observation is that the case which has been made is far from convincing in hard, practical terms. It isn’t clear exactly who is felt to benefit from FOI, given the cost of preparation and compliance.
“We know that once extension of FOI is proposed, it can be hard to garner public support for opposing it. But FOI isn’t at all about helping the community – in practice it usually ends up as being ‘helpful’ for a small minority of external enquirers who in most cases could have got the information without the rigmarole of FOI.
“And nothing in the proposals indicates any evidence that housing associations haven’t been making available information which has been reasonably requested.
“If FOI is indeed extended, many of our members will be among the smallest organisations in the UK which are subject to FOI.
“Whilst we recognise that FOI is about a wider public than tenants alone, it’s revealing that Charter results show housing association tenants to feel significantly better informed by their landlord than do council tenants, who have FOI rights.
“And the argument that tenants who stock transferred from councils have been denied FOI rights isn’t a strong one in practice. Do we hear tenants saying that their new kitchen and bathroom, great repairs service and improved community are all very well but they’d give it all up for FOI?”