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Council official promotes greater freedom of information

Tony Collins

A senior council officer says that public bodies should make more information freely available rather than wait for requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

Speaking at the G2010 government IT conference, John Shewell, head of Corporate Communications at Brighton and Hove City Council, said the public should not need to make FOI requests to obtain information that should be available anyway.

Politicians should not lose their nerve in trusting the public with information. "We have got into the habit of centralised control of information. The online world does not work like that."

He said that the Freedom of Information Act should be put on the back burner and information released unless it is manifestly too sensitive to divulge. "The organisation is there fundamentally to serve the public."

Shewell was speaking during a panel discussion on "The Internet and Social Inclusion" at the G2010 conference. He argued that councils should use social media to "break down barriers and connect with residents". He is a board member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Local Public Sector Group and a member of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives.

Video of "The Internet and Social Inclusion" filmed at G2010


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