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  1. Media Law
June 10, 2013

FoI campaign group calls for donations amid ‘urgent’ funding crisis

By Gavriel Hollander

The Campaign for Freedom of Information is facing a short-term funding crisis following a series of upfront payments as part of a move to new offices.

The campaigning group is looking to raise £10,000 from new funders. Director Maurice Frankel told Press Gazette that CFoI in the process of approaching “people who we think might be able to help us”.

Frankel said that the situation was “very urgent” as funding was tight following the recent move. Although the new premises are cheaper, costs associated with the move have used up around two months’ worth of funding.

“It’s not our longer term funding that’s the problem,” added Frankel “We need around £10,000 to squeeze through and we need that pretty quickly.

“”We are a tiny organisation and run on a small budget compared to many other pressure groups so donations can go a long way for us.”

The group runs on a budget of £100,000 and has two full-time members of staff, including Frankel. Existing funders include the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, the Allen Lane Foundation, the Nuffield Foundation and the GW Cadbury Charitable Trust.

Press regulation campaign group Hacked Off has offered its support to CFoI. Associate director Evan Harris said: “I know how important it is that the UK has the best possible Freedom of Information laws in order to set an example to Commonwealth and other countries where access to information is even more vital to the safeguarding of human rights and the underpinning of democracy.”

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Frankel called the timing of the funding crisis “unfortunate” as it comes while the Government is mulling new restrictions on FoI requests.

“The timing is particularly bad as it is important to put pressure on the Government at the moment.”

The Government wants to restrict use of FoI to make it easier for requests to be turned down as “disproportionately burdensome”.

Last week, Frankel called on Government to shelve the plans. He said: “Any request raising new, complex or contentious issues would be at risk of being refused, simply because of the time needed to consider unfamiliar issues.

“If FoI staff are inexperienced they will need still more time to deal with complex requests, increasing the chances of a cost refusal.

“Some authorities might deliberately claim they have to consult more widely than is strictly necessary to ensure that the cost exceeds the limit.

“Critically, cost refusals take no account of the public interest in disclosure – so many important requests could be refused.”

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