Act must remain to stop the usual stonewalling

PUBLISHED: 11:15 14 December 2006 | UPDATED: 14:55 12 May 2010

I WOULD like to thank Oliver Heald for speaking out against the Government s proposed dilution of the powers of the Freedom of Information Act. In my own experience, it would appear that I have been extremely fortunate, as when the Act was introduced at

I WOULD like to thank Oliver Heald for speaking out against the Government's proposed dilution of the powers of the Freedom of Information Act.

In my own experience, it would appear that I have been extremely fortunate, as when the Act was introduced at the start of 2005, I had just lodged an application to an employment tribunal, where the respondents were Herts County Council, and a Hertfordshire School.

Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, I was able to obtain valuable documentation: county policy documents, minutes of governors' meetings, that would otherwise have been withheld.

Even so, I experienced considerable delay and prevarication from the county's legal department, but as the law at that time was on my side, I was able to persist, and eventually succeeded.

As well as the requested documentation, I even received a letter of apology for the delay from the county council chief executive.

The Crow reported the success of my tribunal application earlier this year.

Whether the outcome would have been so favourable without this documentary evidence, provided albeit reluctantly by the respondents, I do not know, but I doubt it.

We take a justifiable pride in our democratic society, and I am alarmed at the Government's restrictive proposals regarding this important Act.

Just because it is proving to be an embarrassment for public authorities to provide the information requested seems a poor reason to shut down the whole process, which is obviously its desired objective.

From my experience, local authorities are pretty expert at stonewalling on their own account, without the system actually providing them with legitimate reasons for delay.

Moving goal posts when things get difficult seems to be an increasingly common strategy used by this Government.

Even in today's news, fundamental changes in planning laws are apparently afoot. This will particularly affect this area.

Funny how it is announced immediately after Uttlesford District Council's recent victory at Stansted.

But that's another story.

DIANE GLANVILLE

Royston

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