Law in Action on Radio 4 had a very intersting, even balanced, piece about the Freedom of Information Act. There is a brief article at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/law_in_action/8316657.stm and you can listen again at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b00n88cz.
But there is tendency to see the positive impacts (MPs expenses revealed etc) and overemphasise the progress. Earlier this summer, a report was finally released after a long period of obstruction and resistance. The report describes Nottingham City Council as dysfunctional. The following articles tell the tale: http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/news/City-council-don-t-dysfunctional/article-1042797-detail/article.html and http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/news/Battle-information-secret-draft-report/article-698875-detail/article.html. The use of the FOI is often limited and easily frustrated. It requires some real determination to pursue. And the government is too ready to dismiss it as costly because of what it determines are ‘frivolous’ requests. In the case of Nottingahm, the refusakl to release the report for so long reflected the dysfunctional culture. A an authority willing to be criticised in public would not need the FOI to force it to reveal its ‘secrets’.
The full report is available on request – it is a sizeable file.