February 28, 2007

The cost of democracy = £10m… So why won't the government pay it?

Freedom of InformationFreedom of Information is about as sexy as a soggy ham sandwich. And yet it’s really important, and under threat.

Since being introduced by the government in 2000, it’s allowed journalists and members of the public to access huge amounts of information which was secret before.

Examples include a league table of the UK’s worst polluting companies. Details of nuclear power plant faults in Britain. Lists of post office branches due to be closed. MPs travel expenses. Countless stories in local newspapers.

None of these stories would have become public knowledge if it wasn’t for FoI.

But the government thinks the £10m cost to public services of having to deal with Freedom of Information requests is too high. Which is another way of saying that it’s been too effective and the government are running scared. The Department for Constitutional Affairs proposes to make FoI more expensive and would see fewer requests complied with.

Everyone should care about this, and everyone should be complaining. £10m is nothing.

A series of Big Brother? £60m
Liverpool Football Club? £450m
Freedom of Information? £10m Priceless

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