Futures Forum: The Freedom of Information Act > plans to restrict citizens' right to information would “severely damage democracy”
Local government has generally not been very happy with how the Act has inconvenienced their operations:
Futures Forum: The Freedom of Information Act and East Devon >>> >>> "This council spends a large amount of taxpayers' money on FOI requests."
Futures Forum: The Freedom of Information Act >>> local government: How to make an FOI request
The Times today lead with an impressive attack on the proposals to extend the FOI Act to unexpected and diversionary areas:
The government’s sneaky attack on FOI has to stop | The Times
And as the Telegraph notes, proposals to extend the Act to charities diverts attention from the central issue of sharpening scrutiny of government:
Charities should not be subject to Freedom of Information requests
Extending FoI to the voluntary sector would dilute openness and spare the Government from scrutiny
Charities Must Be Transparent But Must Retain Independence - Freedom of Information Only for Public Contracts | John Tizard
As pointed out, these proposals also distract from the much bigger pot of money which the taxpayer provides but which is not accounted for:
Double Standards On New Freedom Of Information LawsThe government wants to impose limits on Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to Whitehall departments and state agencies, but proposes extending the Act to charities – all 165,290 of them. Many of these charities are led by volunteers. Meanwhile private companies which supply public services will remain exempt.
Responding to the news Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK, said: “Whether the Freedom of Information Act should be extended to charities is important, but risks overshadowing the bigger issue in this critical debate, which is that private companies are not necessarily going to be covered by the new FOI laws. Taxpayers spend close to £200 billion every year on goods and services with third party providers, the majority of which goes to private companies. These firms are already difficult to hold to account and often operate with little transparency.
“Extending the Freedom of Information Act to include charities and social enterprises is perfectly reasonable where they receive substantial sums of money from the taxpayers’ purse to deliver crucial services. But private companies delivering public services must also be open to the same rules and regulations. In the last Parliament, the Government committed to this. A U-turn now would be a grave mistake – multi-billion pound private companies must not be allowed to quietly slip under the radar whilst smaller charities and social enterprises, which reinvest their profits and operate for the greater good are singled out.
“These multi-billion pound companies deliver a range of public services, including for some of society’s most vulnerable people, and they really do need to be accountable to the government, commissioners and taxpayers. This issue needs a greater airing in the public domain – charities and social enterprises must not be a distraction from the much bigger and more serious issue facing commissioners and citizens.”
Double Standards On New Freedom Of Information Laws - Blue and Green Tomorrow
This is the current campaign from 38 degrees:
What are companies like Serco and G4S spending our public money on? Right now, none of us have the right to know. Because private companies hired by the government aren’t covered by transparency laws. 
But this could change. The government’s “considering” extending Freedom of Information laws to cover private companies.  It’ll mean we can finally see what’s going on behind closed doors - in privatised NHS services, failing prisons and anything else that’s been flogged to the highest bidder.
The idea’s been leaked in the press. And politicians will be seeing what reaction it gets. A huge petition now, signed by hundreds of thousands of 38 Degrees members, will leave them in no doubt: the public deserves to know what anyone who spends public money is up to.
Please sign the petition to David Cameron now - it only takes ten seconds now to add your name:
Because of creeping privatisation in our NHS, companies like Serco and G4S are responsible for the care of the elderly and most vulnerable in our society - they need to answer to us.
38 Degrees members have fought hard for the right to know what our politicians are up to, what they’re spending our money on and who they’re dealing with behind the scenes. Because of us, it looks like the government’s already back-pedalling on their plans to close down bits of Freedom of Information. 
People-power has no bounds. The government’s change of heart is down to us - so now let’s set the bar higher. 
Tell the government to give us access to what companies are doing with public money. Please add your name to the petition now:
Thanks for being involved,
Bex, Amy, Maddy and the 38 Degrees team
 The Freedom of Information Act right now only covers public bodies. You can read about it here:
ICO: What is the Freedom of Information Act?:
 The Times: Ministers to put charities in the spotlight under new FOI laws:
NB: The Times article is behind a paywall. For more information please see the article below:
Horticulture Week: Charities and Contractors may come under Freedom of Information Act:
 Press Gazette: FoI minister Matthew Hancock would be 'very happy' if commission suggested no changes to act, reports The Times:
Press Gazette: Hands Off FoI: Senior minister tells The Sun 'nobody in Government wants to touch this now:
 38 Degrees blog: Dear PM – Don’t weaken our Freedom of Information Act!
38 Degrees blog: Freedom of Information: submit to the consultation
38 Degrees blog: Freedom of Information: petition handed in
Protect Freedom of Information (FOI) laws
A specific comment from a petitioner refers to the need to make public contracts transparent:
“Freedom of Information is an essential part of democracy, supporting the ability to hold the people who spend public money to account.
With the government wanting the private sector to take a greater and greater role in this, most recently using LEPs (formed primarily of businesses) to spearhead devolution, the need for such companies to be transparent and accountable has never been stronger.
Please extend the Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Impact Regulations to those parts of private companies that are accepting public money and on the same basis to any significant sub-contractors.”
This forms very much part of the context of the proposals for 'devolution' for Devon and Somerset - as highlighted by the East Devon Watch blog:
Some questions about our Local Enterprise Partnership | East Devon Watch
Futures Forum: Devolution for Devon and Somerset? >>> concern grows
Futures Forum: Devolution for Devon and Somerset? >>> "to mandate bodies of unelected businessmen to define and effect policy without any scrutiny or accountability to electors or their representatives."
Futures Forum: Devolution for Devon and Somerset? >>> of Local Enterprise Partnerships and 'what happens when a lobby group of landowners and developers gains too much influence over the democratic planning process'
Futures Forum: Devolution, Local Enterprise Partnerships & accountability