LETTER: Secrecy around curbs to FoI

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The Government’s Cabinet Office has refused to disclose how a panel reviewing Freedom of Information (FoI) laws was recruited, leading campaigners to accuse ministers of using the probe to curb the use of the Freedom of Information Act.

The Government appointed panel, called the Freedom of Information Commission, is reviewing the Act ‘to make sure it’s working effectively for both hardworking taxpayers and citizens’ a Cabinet Office spokesman is quoted as saying.

However, Donald Campbell of campaign group Reprieve has said: “FoI is a vital tool for keeping our political masters honest. Any discussion about changes to FoI powers should take place in an open manner, with full public engagement. The Government’s unjustified secrecy around how it selected members of the Freedom of Information Commission will only fuel concerns that it has been set up with the aim of weakening the public’s right to know.” (Daily Mail, 4/9/15, p20).

I couldn’t agree more. Residents have seen for themselves over the past two years just how Horsham District Council, under Cllrs Dawe and Vickers’ leadership along with their chief executive, is ever more artful at avoiding giving information to residents through FoI requests, particularly regarding planning matters and the flawed North Horsham local plan. Any change in the law will allow them to release even less information.

And just what is local MP Jeremy Quin doing to lobby and stop his Government’s attempts to change the law on Freedom of Information which will weaken the rights of the public to obtain information from both national and local government such as Horsham District Council? Nothing.

In the 100 days since his election, Mr Quin hasn’t given his opinion on any controversial issue, national or local, affecting our town (such as planning, the lack of infrastructure money in the West Horsham and now North Horsham sites, the dire state of West Street, or the way the local council behaves – particularly after Cllr Ray Dawe sacked respected councillor, Andrew Baldwin).

He’s too busy posing for the camera at events that provide easy publicity.

ELIZABETH BARTNOVSKAYA (Mrs)

Heath Way, Horsham

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