The Freedom of Information Act aims to promote a culture of openness and accountability within public authorities. It does this by giving anyone, anywhere, the right to request recorded data held by public authorities, which isn’t relating to personal data or environmental data.
Anyone asking for information has the right to be told whether the information exists (except for absolute exemptions where we do not have to confirm or deny whether we have the information) and to receive the information (unless it is exempt) and, where possible, in the format requested.
The Publication Scheme
Under the FOI Act 2000, all local authorities have to produce a Publication Scheme. This is a directory of data and publications that we already make available, so before you ask for any information, you should check whether it is included in our Publication Scheme.
How do I ask for information?
- Your contact details, normally name and address (email address is acceptable)
- A description of the data you require with timescales (if known)
We will then let you know that we have received your request, that it is being dealt with and the timescales for a reply.
You do not have to refer to the Freedom of Information Act in your request or give a reason for wanting to see the data. However, it may make it easier for us to find exactly what you want if you mention the Act and tell us why you want the data. You can say which format you would like to receive the data in, such as on paper or electronically, or you can ask to inspect a record.
Do I have to pay for the data?
No, although we can charge for such things as photography, printing and postage costs in relation to requests which would cost us less than £450.00 to deal with. This £450 limit includes the time taken for staff to find and sort the data. It does not cover the time taken to consider whether an exemption applies (see below for more details about exemptions). We will let you know as soon as possible if a fee applies. If we do not receive payment within three months, unfortunately, we will not be able to proceed with your request. The Government has stated that if a request would cost us more than £450 to deal with then we ‘need not comply’ with it. We will let you know if this is the case.
How long will it take to receive the data?
We have to respond to you within 20 working days, but we will do our best to provide the data as quickly as possible. For large or complex requests, we are allowed up to 40 working days. We will always let you know if we need this extra time to deal with your request. However, if we ask you to provide clarification of your request, the clock stops until we receive that clarification. The clock also stops between us asking for any applicable fee and the fee being paid. Please check the Publication Scheme first to see whether the data you want is already available.
Is there any data that cannot be released?
Yes, if an exemption applies. There are two categories: ‘Absolute’ exemptions cover data that should not be released under any circumstances, for example, confidential data, court records and personal data (which may be covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000). ‘Qualified’ exemptions are subject to a public interest test and cover such areas as commercial interests, law enforcement and health and safety. You will be notified in writing if an exemption applies to some or all of your request. The only other reasons for not providing data are if the request is considered a nuisance, is unreasonable, repeated, or if the required fee is not paid within three months.
What can I do if you’re not satisfied with our response
Firstly, contact the Performance Team and ask for an internal review if you are unhappy with the way your request was handled or if you want to appeal against a decision regarding non-disclosure of data. We will deal with your internal review under our Corporate Compliments, Comments and Complaints procedure.
If you are still dissatisfied after an internal review has been conducted you can escalate your request to the Information Commissioners Office.
Where can I find out more information on FOI?
For more information please visit the Information Commissioner’s Office website.
We continually monitor to see how many FOI requests we have received and how we are performing against our targets in responding to these requests.