Headlines: January 13th, 2009

A new model publication scheme has been produced by the Information Commissioner’s Office to help public authorities comply with the Freedom of Information Act by disclosing official information. Publication Schemes are a requirement under the Act to assist members of the public in identifying the type of information that will be made available routinely.

The ICO said its new model publication scheme should be adopted by any authority. At the same time it is making available user-friendly guidance specific to each area of the public sector to help authorities with that implementation.

Graham Smith, Deputy Commissioner at the ICO, said its approach to publication schemes was pragmatic and based on common sense and he encouraged public authorities to adopt the model scheme. “Adopting the model scheme will also minimise administration for public bodies and maximise public benefit. The Act continues to bring great benefits to public life and break down the culture of secrecy,” he said.

The model scheme has been backed by Wandsworth Council’s Principal Information Management Officer. Rudi Leoni, who said it would give the public a much simpler and more convenient way of locating and accessing the most commonly requested types of information. “As well as being very user friendly for consumers, it also allows authorities to provide, amend and update information in a cost effective way and also frees up staff resources to concentrate on providing a better service to more complex and detailed requests,” he added.

The sector specific guidelines set out the catagories of information which authorities should disclose routinely, including details of organisational structures and financial information about projected and actual income and expenditure.