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FOI Act may be extended to cover housing associations

Mon 27 Jun 2011

Housing associations could soon be covered by the Freedom of Information Act under plans currently being considered by the government.

According to housing minister Grant Shapps, the public finances are currently under an unprecedented amount of pressure.

As a result, he believes any organisation which is in receipt of money from the state needs to be more "transparent and open" to taxpayers, including housing associations.

Mr Shapps said this would enable social housing occupants and the wider public to see how their money is being used.

He stated that the plans, which will be put up for consultation, will help to drive down costs and enable taxpayers to get more for their money.

Richard Tinham, partner at Winckworth Sherwood, said: "Experience across the public sector has shown that the Freedom of Information Act has significant cost implications for those entities falling within its scope, with many central and local government bodies facing exponential increases in requests for disclosure year on year following its implementation.

"That is all very well and good if the entity in question is funded and maintained by the public purse, but associations are increasingly reliant on alternative funding mechanisms in the absence of grants.

"The requirements of the Act will give rise to additional cost and compliance burdens and hinder the nimbleness of any organisation seeking to compete against other service providers in an increasingly commercial environment."

No date for the consultation has yet been confirmed, although the Department for Communities and Local Government said it should take place later this year.

The coalition has made transparency a key part of its agenda, with central government departments and local authorities now expected to make details of their finances available to the public.ADNFCR-2761-ID-800601044-ADNFCR

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