Housing associations could be next on the list of sectors about to feel the sometimes painful nip of Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation.

Steve Wood, Deputy Information Commissioner, told the Society of Editors annual conference earlier this month (November) that the Commission was looking carefully at the pros and cons of spreading the reach of FOI into the world of housing associations.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 provides public access to information held by public authorities.

It does this in two ways:

  • public authorities are obliged to publish certain information about their activities; and
  • members of the public are entitled to request information from public authorities.

Speaking to a housing association chief executive earlier this week, I do wonder how much FOI enthusiasm there will be.

“In my previous role, I had an entire department tied up in knots with FOI requests,” he said. “While some of the requests were legitimate and helpful, others were a complete waste of time.”

And one local authority chief executive told me that FOIs were too often used by NIMBYs and extremists to further their own causes. “I have no problem with members of the public asking questions about any work that this council carries out. But individuals with a vested interest can waste huge amounts of council time.”

Do you have a view on the spread of FOI legislation into the housing association sector? Email hello@cobbpr.com