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Hands off FoI campaign to save threatened Freedom of Information Act

By Paul Francis

Since its introduction in 2005, the Freedom of Information Act has shone a light on what countless public organisations are doing in your name and with your money. Now that right to know is under threat.

The KM Group is joining forces with others to urge the government not to weaken the right to know - which has been a vital tool in media investigations.

A panel has been set up by the government to review how well the Act is working and whether it strikes the right balance between the public interest and the burden on bodies who deal with requests.

Among the considerations are whether charges should be introduced for requests which are currently free; making it easier to refuse requests on cost grounds; restricting the grounds on which internal discussions are released; strengthening the power of ministers to veto requests and introducing fees for appeals.

Here are just a few of the many stories we have been able to publish using the Act, showing why it should not be changed to make it more difficult to hold organisations and politicians to account:

Agency nurse cost Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS trust £1,800 - for just one shift

East Kent has the worst record in England for waiting times in A&E. Image: Thinkstock
East Kent has the worst record in England for waiting times in A&E. Image: Thinkstock

Ashford Council spent £70,000 on a revamp of council leader's office


Kent chief constable raised serious concerns about using Manston airport as Operation Stack relief lorry park

Operation Stack between Junction 9 and 10 of the M20. Library image.
Operation Stack between Junction 9 and 10 of the M20. Library image.

Kent grammar schools offering hundreds of places to children from fee paying prep schools

Children will sit the test tomorrow, Tuesday, and Wednesday, or Saturday
Children will sit the test tomorrow, Tuesday, and Wednesday, or Saturday

Children as young as three have been caught up in knife crime in Kent

The pair told the court it was a prank. Library picture
The pair told the court it was a prank. Library picture

Kent crime commissioner Ann Barnes spent thousands of pounds on PR and consultants

Ann Barnes
Ann Barnes

New Dart charges at Dartford crossing see more than £600,000 in fines collected in just months

A fifth man has been charged over the discovery of a multi-million pound cannabis shipment near the Dartford Crossing.
A fifth man has been charged over the discovery of a multi-million pound cannabis shipment near the Dartford Crossing.

Dog mess fines - how a council fined just three people over dog mess in three years

Yobs placed dog mess in a post box instead of a designated dog waste bin
Yobs placed dog mess in a post box instead of a designated dog waste bin

Mental health budget chopped by £8m in last three years - raising concerns about services for vulnerable people

People with mental health issues are being sent hundreds of miles away. Stock picture
People with mental health issues are being sent hundreds of miles away. Stock picture

Kent County Council spends £225,000 to sponsor a folk festival in America

County Hall in Maidstone
County Hall in Maidstone

What can you do to voice your concern?

The government’s consultation ends on November 20.

You can submit evidence until then online at: https://consult.justice.gov.uk/foicommission/call-for-evidence
or by email to the following address: foi.commission@justice.gsi.gov.uk
or in writing to the following address:

Independent Commission on Freedom of Information
9.54, 9th Floor
102 Petty France
London
SW1H 9AJ

There is a petition against any changes here:

https://www.change.org/p/matthew-hancock-mp-don-t-weaken-the-freedom-of-information-act

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