The Daily Mail warned that a lengthy investigation exposing ‘the greed of public sector fat cats’ might not be possible in future if the Government weakens the Freedom of Information Act.
The Government is currently consulting on changes to the act amid widespread concern from campaigners that it wants to levy fees for requests, increase exemptions and bolster ministers’ right to veto disclosures.
Today’s Daily Mail investigation was based on more than 6,000 Freedom of Information requests.
Birmingham City Council has already said it thinks FoI requests should cost £25 each. Such a change could make investigations such as the Mail’s prohibitively expensive for nearly all news organisations.
Revelations by the Mail made possible by FoI today include:
- the fact that 50,084 NHS staff earned more than £100,000 last year
- The NHS hospital boss who was paid £1.26m last year
- The Welsh council chief executive who claimed £2,368 a month to pay for a Porsche
- the 2,000 council bosses who charge the taxpayer £1m a year for private medical care.
Director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information Maurice Frankel said: “There is very little chance the pay and perks of local authorities being restrained unless there is the possibility of them being revealed and the consequent public pressure to rein in spending.”
The Daily Mail said in a leader column today: “Curbing FoI would not only be an unforgiveable attack on transparency and democratic accountability. It would be a licence for council, police and NHS bosses to continue to spend your money not on vital public services, but on their own luxury lifestyles.”