Response 241407008

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About You

What is your name?

Name
Jim Munro

Are you responding as an individual or an organisation?

Please select one item
(Required)
Individual
Ticked Organisation

What is your organisation?

Organisation
Shire Housing Association

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 are concerned at the impact and cost of implementing this proposal. In our view there is no reasonable case made as to why Freedom of Information should be extended to RSLs like Shire Housing Association. The Consultation Document lacks a clear definition of what constitutes "functions of a public nature". It seems somewhat confusing that the Scottish Government is proposing to include RSLs as "public bodies" and therefore subject to the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act whilst at the same time looking to reclassify RSLs as "private" organisations following the Office of National Stastics decision in 2016! We recognise the regulatory and legislative framework that we operate in. However, there seems to be a misconception in the Consultation that all RSLs are similar to large monolithic local authorities. The sector is culturally very different, with a stronger tradition of community engagement and transparency, and we believe this proposal jeopardises this . RSLS also engage in wider community enterprises and activities that differentiate us from other "public bodies". The Consultation Paper states that RSLs receive or have received large amounts of public subsidy such as Housing Association Grant and should as a result come under the auspices of Freedom of Information legislation. This is a somewhat simplistic view of RSL Funding models and fails to recognise wide differences across the sector. Shire Housing Association has received very little public subsidy over the last decade. The Consultation infers that RSL tenants and stakeholders are disadvantaged by not currently being subject to the terms of the Freedom of Information Act. However, there is no evidence to support this view, or that our tenants and stakeholders wish this to be extended. We believe there is no need to change the current situation and RSLs should be exempt from the Freedom of Information legislation. We are committed to transparancy with clear communication with our tenants and stakeholders. Our December 2016 Tenant Satisfaction Survey showed 96% satisfaction with the Association, and 99% of tenants were satisfied with our approach to keeping them informed about decisions and services. This underlines that there is no need to extend the Freedom of Information to RSLs like Shire Housing Association. We also comply with the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman model approach to service complaints, ensuring where anyone is dissatisfied with any part of our service we respond in a transparent and effective way. This includes dissatisfaction with the quality of information we share with tenants and stakeholders.

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.
The timing of proposed introduction is at best arbitrary and demonstrates a lack of understanding about the potential costs to RSLs. If Freedom of Information is to be extended, this should only be done following a proper systematic analysis of its costs and the impact on service delivery in many small RSLs.

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

Comments:
Annex A lacks robust analysis of the potential costs of implementing Freedom of Information on smaller organisations and uses outdated figures from 2012. There is no indication that expanding Freedom of Information will deliver value for Money to tenants and stakeholders. Sections 2.7 and 2.8 state that the Scottish Government believes that Freedom of Information will allow equality of access to information and that this will improve service delivery. There is no evidence provided in Annex A to back this up. In fact, analysis of the Annual Return on the Charter continues to demonstrate that RSL tenants are more satisfied with their landlord compared to local authority tenants. RSLs also continue to out perform local authorities across a wide range of performance and tenant satisfaction indicators. It is our view that extending the Freedom of Information will not deliver any tangible benefit but merely add additional bureaucracy and costs.

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
We do not believe that the proposed change will have a significant impact on this.