The generally held view is that the office of Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) is distinct from the local authority that appoints them, and that EROs are therefore not currently within scope of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“the FOI Act”).
In order to come within the scope of the FOI Act, EROs would need to be designated by a section 5 Order under that Act or through an amendment to the primary legislation.
The Government conducted a public consultation between 25 October 2007 and 1 February 2008 to seek views on which bodies might be included within the scope of the FOI Act by way of a section 5 Order. This would be the first such order made under the FOI Act. Electoral Registration Officers were not identified as part of this consultation, or in the responses, as candidates for inclusion.
The list of bodies proposed for inclusion in this first section 5 Order is:
Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO)
Financial Ombudsman Service
Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).
However, the Government made clear in their response to the consultation, published on 16 July 2009, that the first section 5 Order would be an initial step, and that the extension of the FOI Act would be kept under review. I have asked my officials to undertake further work to examine the potential for the FOI Act to be extended to EROs, and to consult the relevant parties on this issue.