AddThis SmartLayers

'Public confidence in the authorities up thanks to FOI' – survey

New research published by the Information Commissioner’s Office shows that people have more confidence in the public authorities thanks to innovations under freedom of information.

The findings show that 72 per cent of those questioned had more confidence in public authorities because of freedom of information, compared with only 55 per cent in spring 2005, when the FoI Act had only just come into force.

Around three quarters (74 per cent) felt the FoI Act was helping promote accountability and transparency in public authorities, a significant rise from around half in 2005.

The research also shows that 76 per cent of individuals believe the Act has increased their knowledge of public authorities, a jump from 62 per cent in 2005.

A sample of 1,000 interviews was conducted by Hull firm SMSR.

The Commissioner’s office claims the Act is “clearly increasing” people’s confidence in public authorities.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas said: “A great deal of information has been released over the past 18 months, which would not otherwise have been in the public domain.

“Almost every day, the phrase “released under the Freedom of Information Act” appears in both national and local newspapers, reporting the wide range of information that has been disclosed, from restaurant hygiene inspections, and university examination pass rates, to details of politicians’ expenses, European Union farm subsidies and hospital mortality rates.

“Increased confidence in public authorities is clearly of benefit to both individuals and organisations, showing that greater openness is starting to change the culture of government at all levels.”

Public authorities also continue to have a positive attitude towards the Act. Some 82 per cent of public authorities believe that the Freedom of Information Act is needed.

The Commissioner’s recent annual report signalled a more robust approach toward the small number of public authorities that repeatedly failed to meet acceptable timescales for releasing information, and that formal action would be taken where there was systemic non compliance with the Act.