The Freedom of Information Officer's Handbook

Oct 2018 | 224pp

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The Freedom of Information Officer's Handbook

Paul Gibbons

Freedom of information (FOI) is now an international phenomenon with over 100 countries from Albania to Zimbabwe enacting the right to know for their citizens. Since 2005, the UK’s Freedom of Information Act has opened up thousands of public bodies to unparalleled scrutiny and prompted further moves to transparency. This book provides a comprehensive guide to the practical management of freedom of information compliance, including interpretation of the Act as well as the Environmental Information Regulations.

The UK Freedom of Information Act has now been in force for 12 years. Despite regular attempts to reform it – most recently the government’s establishment of an Independent FOI Commission in 2015–16 – it has largely survived intact. This book documents best practice, the light that is cast by regulator guidance and case law, and the author’s views on how FOI should be managed now that it has matured and become embedded in public authorities. It’s hoped that the book will cement a positive approach to FOI in public bodies and help them to better meet their obligations.

The Freedom of Information Officer’s Handbook will be required reading for anyone responsible for, or involved with, managing compliance with FOI. The book will also cover FOI in other parts of the British Islands, so will be of interest to practitioners in the Isle of Man, Jersey, Scotland and Ireland. A substantial portion of the book focuses on practical aspects of delivering FOI, which are not unique to the UK, so the book will have relevance to those managing FOI obligations in other countries around the world. 

1. Introduction
2. The FOI Officer
3. Governance and resources 
4. Training and awareness
5. Searching for information
6. Dealing with requesters
7. How FOI affects relationships between organisations
8. Proactive disclosure
9. Interpreting requests and preparing information
10. Drafting responses
11. Records management and archives
12. Copyright and FOI 
13. FOI, public relations and the media
14. Handling complaints
15. Appeals and enforcement
16. The Environmental Information Regulations
17. Managing the burden of FOI and EIR
18. Applying exemptions 
19. Data protection and FOI
20. FOI in the British Islands.

Paul Gibbons began his career as an archivist and records manager in the pharmaceutical industry. Following this he worked as a records manager in local government and in the Houses of Parliament. In 2003, he moved to the Greater London Authority where he helped prepare the Mayor of London’s headquarters for the Freedom of Information Act, and later worked in the NHS and in higher education as an FOI and information governance practitioner. In 2010, he established the FOIMan blog and Twitter feed to present a different perspective on FOI – the insider’s view. His evidence was noted by the Justice Select Committee in its post-legislative scrutiny of FOI in 2012, during the course of which he formed part of the online SaveFOI campaign. Since 2014, Paul has been working as a freelance trainer specialising in FOI and data protection. He has written extensively on FOI and other subjects and has a regular column in PDP’s Freedom of Information Journal. He has also been interviewed on BBC Radio and featured in Times Higher Education magazine and the Daily Telegraph. He is a regular speaker at events including PDP’s annual FOI conference and Information and Records Management Society meetings and conferences.

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