DCA publishes draft regulations on FOI costs
The government has this morning announced further details of its plans to restrict the use of the freedom of information law by those seeking access to information from public authorities.
The Department for Constitutional Affairs has produced a draft set of regulations and announced a formal consultation period on them which will run until 8 March.
The regulations are in line with the intentions previously announced by the DCA, although there are some small refinements.
The new rules would allow public authorities to take into account time spent on considering possible exemptions and consulting others when working out if requests are too expensive, but now proposes a cap on the amount of such time they can put towards the cost limit. This would still push many sensitive and tricky requests beyond the cost limit.
The proposals will also still allow authorities to aggregate unrelated requests from different individuals from one organisation and then refuse them on cost grounds, but now only where it is 'reasonable' for them to do so.
These refinements on their original plans will be presented by the DCA as the outcome of their 'taking stock' of the responses to their previous announcement.
They represent minor concessions to the wave of criticism that the initial proposals prompted, but at the cost of introducing more complexity. This may well eliminate many of the cost savings that the plans are intended to achieve. The proposals are bound to lead to time-consuming internal reviews and complaints to the Commissioner about matters like estimating the cost of consultation time and when it is 'reasonable' to aggregate requests.
More comment follows later.