Charges for FOI requests will restrict access to information for many voluntary organisations

Many voluntary groups and lobbyists are concerned that the Government is considering the introduction of charges for Freedom of Information Act requests.

A recent survey conducted by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and Ashridge Business School involving voluntary and community organisations showed that the FOI Act is having a "positive impact" on lobbying, although many people in these organisations do not fully understand the legislation. The survey indicated that, in the first six months after the FOI Act came into force, over 18,000 voluntary organisations submitted requests, some of them asking more than 30 questions.

The main fear is that the introduction of fees for information requests will mean that many voluntary organisations will no longer be able to benefit from the FOI Act as they will not be able to afford to pay. Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: "Voluntary organisations aren't asking questions about John Prescott's weight or the existence of aliens. The Act can be a real tool for voluntary organisations with limited budgets to access valuable information."

Fears over loss of vital information: Plans to charge for Freedom of Information requests are worrying organisations on small budgets (Daily Telegraph, 12 January 2006)