Response 1050843893

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About You

What is your name?

Name
Craig Sanderson

Are you responding as an individual or an organisation?

Please select one item
(Required)
Individual
Ticked Organisation

What is your organisation?

Organisation
Link Group Limited

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
Ticked Yes
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:
Question 1 is not one that can easily be answered as ‘yes’ or ‘no’. In principle, Link is not against the extension of Freedom of Information legislation but is mindful of the limited benefits that it would bring to our customers. Link’s values spell out the word RESPECT, the T stands for Transparency and we strive always to be so. RSLs do carry out ‘functions of a public nature’, often carrying out for and on behalf of local authorities or Scottish Government to meet housing targets or carry out particular projects. These projects already open up RSLs to Freedom of Information legislation and they may be asked to provide information to the local authority or Scottish Government to allow them to prepare a response to a request. The planned reversal (at least in Scotland) of the Office of National Statistics re-classification of RSLs as public bodies is liable to cause confusion as a similar justification was used in the re-classification as is being used for the proposed extension to FoISA. Statutory functions carried out by RSLs Although an RSL may have an obligation to offer accommodation to a person identified as homeless, it is not the responsibility of the RSL to provide this without the person having first presented themselves as homeless to their local authority. Public funding Any public funding that is received by RSLs is very carefully spent on the specific activities the funding relates so. Any projects or programmes which are funded by public purse are thoroughly reported back to the funding body. Regulation and oversight The extension to the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 came about due to the RSLs being considered ‘under the control’ of the Scottish Housing Regulator. The consultation document highlights the fact that “the ‘state’ can be seen to exercise a form of oversight over RSLs that it not exercised over private landlords”. In a tightly regulated sector which aims to provide housing and support for those who need it most the introduction of extra legislation may divert resources from this important work. Access to information The need to have an open, transparent, regulated and highly scrutinised social housing sector in Scotland is unquestionable - this already exists. Link, along with every RSL, submits very detailed statistical information to the Scottish Housing Regulator based on indicators derived from the Scottish Social Housing Charter. Regular information is available to customers through quarterly newsletters, an annual charter report card, website updates and social media posts. Loss of information rights Although rights to some information may have been lost following post-FoISA stock transfers it is unlikely that this has adversely affected tenants. Most RSLs will operate in the spirit of the Act and would provide information to tenants who asked for it, over and above the information already available through publications schemes, newsletters and report cards.

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.
No, this is not a reasonable timescale. When the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 was initially brought into law, public bodies were given three years to comply with the Act. The order should come into force no earlier than 1 April 2019 to allow RSLs time to fully review the information they hold and create appropriate governance frameworks. The proposed date is only one month before the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation. This new legislation, which will come into force in the UK notwithstanding ‘Brexit’ will mean a considerable about of work for all sectors to ensure compliance.

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

Comments:
The report ‘Proposed Extension of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 to Scottish RSLs – Potential Impact and Implications’ commissioned by the SFHA provides estimates of the number of requests, the cost and the staff time required to complete the requests. 4.9 The cost of compiling and responding to requests may be considerable. RSLs may not charge more than 10% of the cost for responding to the request between £100 and £600. 4.10 RSLs may be deterred from competing for public funds which would have a significant impact on Scottish Government’s target of 50,000 new homes. 4.11 (Points 6 and 9) the need to have an open, transparent, regulated and highly scrutinised social housing sector in Scotland is unquestionable - this already exists. Link, along with every RSL, submits very detailed statistical information to the Scottish Housing Regulator based on indicators derived from the Scottish Social Housing Charter. Regular information is available to customers through quarterly newsletters, an annual charter report card, website updates and social media posts. Our award-winning Tenant Scrutiny Panel regularly reviews processes to ensure that they are meeting the needs of our customers. There is a failure to recognise that the majority of requests are unlikely to come from our tenants, 98 per cent of whom believe that we are either good or very good at keeping them informed about services and outcomes.