Response 286887132

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About You

What is your name?

Name
Ashley Campbell

Are you responding as an individual or an organisation?

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(Required)
Individual
Ticked Organisation

What is your organisation?

Organisation
Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland

Questions

1. Do you agree that freedom of information legislation should be extended to Registered Social Landlords, as proposed in this consultation paper?

Please select one item
Yes
Ticked No

2. Freedom of Information can be extended to organisations that undertake ‘functions of a public nature’. You may wish to provide comments on how you consider that RSLs undertake functions of a public nature, for example, with reference to the factors referred to earlier in the consultation paper.

Please enter comments:
We agree with the principles of transparency and that RSLs should share information with tenants, customers and the public. We believe that involving tenants and other customers in service development and delivery can help to improve performance and CIH Scotland has played an active part in promoting tenant scrutiny in partnership with the Scottish Government. We also understand the argument that RSLs are partly funded by the Government and therefore should be open to scrutiny. However, we have concerns that extending FOI legislation to RSLs could place an unnecessary burden on some RSLs, particularly smaller organisations. Experience from the roll out of FOI regulations to local authorities shows that there is not necessarily a link between the size of organisation and the number of requests it has to deal with. FOIs can also be requested by any member of the public but will ultimately be resourced by tenants through rental income. The possibility of increased costs for tenants is acknowledged in the consultation paper. This raises questions as to whether extending FOIs to RSLs would constitute best value for money. We expect that during the course of this consultation, the Scottish Government will have engaged directly with tenants and their representatives to discuss the implications of extending FOI regulations to RSLs, including the possibility of costs being passed on, and will take their views into account when deciding whether to go ahead with these proposals.

3. The proposed order would be expected to come into force on 1 April 2018. Do you consider this a reasonable timescale, allowing for preparation for inclusion?

Please select one item
Yes
Ticked No
If not, you may wish to indicate what timescale you feel would be more appropriate and why.
If the coverage of FOI regulations is to be extended to cover RSLs, organisations will need time to plan for the management of information requests and time for the relevant staff to receive training. Training would need to be provided for all staff and Governing Board members to ensure understanding of and compliance with FOI procedures as well as specific and ongoing training for those responsible for recording and responding to FOI requests. Initial training and ongoing administration would need to be budgeted for. Having discussed the timescales with stakeholders, we do not believe that an enforcement date of 1 April 2018 would allow enough time for organisations to plan for and resource the necessary changes. A more realistic timescale would be 1 April 2019. This would also be more consistent with implementation timescales for local authorities which were given a two year notice period.

4. We would welcome comments on the draft partial Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment provided at Annex A.

Comments:
We have concerns that extending FOI legislation to RSLs could place an unnecessary burden on some RSLs, particularly smaller organisations. The Scottish Social Housing Charter (SSHC) already places a duty on all social landlords to communicate with their tenants and other customers: Outcome 2: Communication. Social landlords manage their business so that: • Tenants and other customers find it easy to communicate with their landlord and get the information they need about their landlord, how and why it makes decisions and the services it provides. All social landlords are required to collate and submit a substantial body of data to the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) each year through the Annual Return on the Charter (ARC). This data is publicly available on the SHR’s website, allowing for direct comparison of landlords’ performance, and social landlords are also required to promote their performance to their tenants and customers. We understand that members of the public who request information can be directed to publicly available information such as ARC data or may be required to cover the cost of producing or collating data. However, each individual request, whether it requires additional data to be collated or not, will have to be resourced. At the very least, each request will require a member of staff to assess the request, monitor timescales and respond. The Business and Regulatory Assessment published with the consultation acknowledges the costs for RSLs are difficult to estimate. There is no way to assess how many FOI requests might be made and there is limited research into the average cost of handling an FOI request. Research cited in the BRMA estimates that each request requires approximately 7 hours of staff time at an average cost of £231. A recent report commissioned by SFHA and GWSF and issued to their members looked at the potential impact of extension. The local authorities contacted as part of this research estimated that they dealt with between 60-90 housing related FOI requests per year. Any additional costs associated with staff training and responding to FOI requests for RSLs would have to be met through rental income. The costs involved are not insignificant and we would like to repeat our concerns that the extension of FOI regulations could place an unnecessary burden on some organisations and that costs will have to be covered through rental income. If FOI regulations are to be extended, the Scottish Government must support organisations to prepare for the changes.

5. We would welcome comments on how these proposals might impact on ‘Equality Groups’ i.e. in respect of age, gender, race, religion, disability, sexuality, children’s rights etc. Comments will inform the Equalities Impact Assessment and Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment to be completed following consultation.

Comments
No comments.