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MSP bids to make GHA accountable
by Marianne Taylor

GLASGOW Housing Association will be made more open to public scrutiny if a Glasgow MSP’s bid for a new law is successful.

Glasgow MSP Robert Brown wants GHA, Scotland’s biggest social landlord, to become subject to Freedom of Information legislation, bringing it in line with other public bodies such as councils, police forces and hospitals.

The legislation gives every citizen the right to access information about the inner workings of an organisation. However GHA, which manages 80,000 former council homes and a budget of hundreds of millions from the public purse, is not subject to FOI due to a loophole which exempts all housing associations.

The controversial loophole will be closed if Mr Brown’s Holyrood bill succeeds. GHA claims it has always worked “in the spirit” of FOI.

ET Reader Poll
Should the GHA fully comply with Freedom of Information laws?
Yes
89.8%
No
8.2%
Don’t know
2.0%

But critics, including politicians, housing campaigners, tenants and homeowners, have accused the organisation of being secretive.

The Evening Times has been calling for a change in the law for the last three years.

Mr Brown, a Liberal Democrat, said his bill would also apply to other organisations not currently covered by FOI – including private prisons – but that GHA was top of the list.

He said: “GHA has a huge influence on people’s lives – it’s about time they were opened up to public scrutiny.

“If there is nothing wrong, as bosses have claimed, then they have nothing to fear.”

Glasgow lawyer Mike Dailly, who campaigns on housing issues, said: “GHA has a very bad track record when it comes to being open and accountable.

“They more often than not appear secretive and reluctant to share information about themselves.

“Being subject to FOI would be a huge shock to the system for GHA.”

Scottish Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion said: “There is a strong argument to extend FOI to protect people’s rights where changes in service delivery put these under threat.

“For example, the transfer of housing to housing associations can mean residents are losing their rights to information.”

Publication date 24/04/08

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