Freedom of Information and Participation: Comparing Local and Central Government
Despite the extension of citizens’ access to local government files, openness in local government has been offset by the process of restructuring the institutions and powers of local government. Richard Chapman observes in his chapter that ‘Open government is a more general term than freedom of information since it concerns a culture in which government goes about its business in such a way as to encourage accountability, democracy and transparency.’ Whilst not perfect in all respects, local government is approaching an acceptable measure of openness in its dealings with citizens in the sense of making the reasons for its decisions available to the public. Legislation in the 1980s ensured that access to information in local government was much more accessible to the public than in central government. Following the Freedom of Information Act of 2000 this still remains the case. However, the extent to which information can be obtained by the public is as, Chapman indicates, but one aspect of the wider issue of open government of which freedom of information is an essential but by no means the only element needed to secure a sound democratic framework.