Scottish Government Response to FOI Consultation Expected in Autumn
In a letter to the Local Government and Communities (LGC) Committee, Minister for Parliamentary Business Joe Fitzpatrick indicated that Scottish Government would need to undertake further stakeholder engagement before issuing its formal response to the consultation regarding potential extension of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) to RSLs.
The Minister was responding to the LGC Committee's consideration of petition PE01539, which proposed extension of FOI to RSLs. He highlighted that the consultation process to date has raised a number of complex issues around: the functions of RSLs; the scope and timing of an order; and the administrative and financial implications of extending coverage on RSLs – and potentially their tenants.
The minister also highlighted that further analysis and stakeholder engagement would be necessary before formally responding to the consultation in Autumn. Only then will we have any kind of indication on Scottish Government intentions pertaining to extension.
SFHA CEO Mary Taylor said:
“In our response to the consultation in February this year, SFHA highlighted that it is important not to consider extension a foregone conclusion and that all arguments – both for and against extension – be fully considered as part of this process. We would therefore welcome the approach being taken by Scottish Government.
“RSLs in Scotland are committed to openness and transparency – and are subject to a great deal of scrutiny through the Scottish Housing Regulator, OSCR, when a charity; the Care Commission, when providing Care services; and the SPSO. RSLs have demonstrated strong performance when measured against the Scottish Social Housing Charter, with tenant satisfaction higher in terms of communications received from RSLs than in local authorities, who are subject to FOI legislation.
“Scottish Government has acknowledged that there have been few examples of difficulty in obtaining information from RSLs in connection with functions of a public nature, and there is a lack of information about the likely volume, scope or source of requests. This is of particular concern when any additional costs associated with FOISA would have to be met through tenants’ rental income.
“Should Scottish Government ultimately decide to extend FOISA to RSLs, a longer lead in time would be necessary for implementation – with April 2019 the earliest reasonable target. That would need to be adjusted the later the decision to allow appropriate time for preparation. SFHA has also asked that any potential Order focusses only on housing services of a public nature, as some RSL activities are untaken on a purely commercial basis.”
The full letter is available on the Scottish Government website here: Joe Fitzpatrick MSP letter to LGC Committee 19 April 2017
All responses to the consultation regarding the potential extension of FOISA to RSLs, including SFHA's, are available on the Scottish Government website here: Responses to Scottish Government consultation