CIH Scotland has outlined its concerns about the implications of extending Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation to Registered Social Landlords (RSLs).
The Freedom of Information Act gives everyone the statutory right to ask for information held by a Scottish public authority and the Act can also be extended to organisations which undertake functions ‘of a public nature’.
The Scottish Government considers that the provision of social housing is such a function and a consultation, which was published “with a view to extending the Act to RSLs”, came to a close last week.
Responding to this consultation, CIH Scotland reasserted its view that while it agrees with the principles of transparency and that RSLs should share information with tenants, customers and the public, it believes the change could place “an unnecessary burden” on some RSLs, particularly smaller organisations.
It highlighted that all social landlords already have a duty to communicate with their tenants and other customers under the Scottish Social Housing Charter (SSHC) and are also required to collate and submit a substantial body of data to the Scottish Housing Regulator through the Annual Return on the Charter (ARC), all of which is publicly available on its website.
CIH Scotland had previously submitted evidence to the Scottish Parliament in January 2015 and to a Scottish Government consultation in the following September, the latter of which included a number of arguments against extending the coverage of FOI legislation to RSLs.
In its latest submission, CIH Scotland also said “it is not clear what additional or different evidence underpins the change of direction in this current consultation”.
Annie Mauger, director of CIH Scotland told Scottish Housing News: “Transparency and information sharing should be applauded. We know that tenants’ views and input can help to improve services and drive up standards in the sector. However, there is a risk that extending FOI regulations could place an unnecessary burden on RSLs, particularly smaller organisations.
“All social landlords have a duty to communicate and share information with their tenants under the Scottish Social Housing Charter and landlords already spend a great deal of time and effort in meeting this duty. If the regulations are extended, it is not clear what volume of requests may be generated or how much it might cost to process these requests which raises a question over whether extending regulations would provide good value for money.”