'A grotesque attack on democracy': Journalism industry anger over council calls for weakened FoI Act

The Daily Telegraph has condemned local council calls to weaken the Freedom of Information Act as a "grotesque attack on democracy".

Press Gazette revealed submissions from the Local Government Association and several councils calling for FoI charges and reduced time limits yesterday. In addition, one council submission attacked "lazy journalism".

Press Gazette also reported that UK universities want to be exempt from the act.

These reports were followed by coverage in The Times, Daily Mail and on the front page of The Daily Telegraph today.

In an editorial, the Telegraph said: "Submissions to a (mistaken and troubling) Government review of the legislation reveal that local councils want 'stricter controls' on what should reveal to the people whose taxes they spend, including charges and reduced time limits to make it easier to reject applications.

"There is a certain grotesque irony here, since the submissions to the review were of course written by council officials whose salaries are funded by the taxpayers whose right to information they seek to curtail.

"The irony does not stop there. Universities, institutions supposedly dedicated to enlightenment and debate, also want to make it harder to find out how they operate and spend public money."

The Telegraph said: "This would be darkly comic, if only the stakes were not so high. Faith in government and politics is waning, because many people do not trust those in power. The best remedy is government that uses money and power frugally, and stands accountable for that use. However modestly, the Act helps deliver that transparency. Ministers must ignore the siren calls of self-preserving officialdom and protect the electorate’s right to know."

Council and university submissions were also condemned by individual journalists yesterday:

 

 

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