NEW DRIVE BEGINS TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO PUBLIC SECTOR INFORMATION
The Information Commissioner is launching an initiative on Freedom of Information publication schemes following a review last year which highlighted the need to develop and improve the dissemination of public sector information. The initiative is being announced this week to mark International Your Right to Know Day, which is on Thursday.
The Commissioner will be looking for feedback from anyone with an opinion on publication schemes, whether they are freedom of information professionals, practitioners or simply users. Publication schemes act as public commitments to make certain information available and as guides to how that information can be obtained. All such schemes have to be approved by the Information Commissioner’s Office.
The Office will follow this process with a series of sector workshops in the first half of next year. These will take place in England and Wales and central government, local government, the police service, health and education will be invited to participate.
Output from the workshops will be published as sector specific publication scheme guides. These will contain the core elements required for approval as well as good practice tips on dissemination, maintenance, training, promotion and review. That process will be rolled out between September next year and March 2008, after which all public authorities will be required to submit their schemes for re-approval during the second half of 2008.
The ICO is also enrolling an Advisory Panel of experts and interested parties to act as a sounding board for ideas and to provide feedback where this is appropriate. Dawn Monaghan, senior manager with responsibility for good practice in freedom of information at the ICO, said, “We want to work closely with public authorities to help them improve and enhance their publication schemes. We hope this process will help to steer all sectors towards a culture of pro-active disclosure and ensure a consistency of core classes of information across public authorities. “