Freedom of Information
Information about the Freedom of Information Act and the Publication Scheme.
What is Freedom of Information?
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI Act) gives individuals rights of access to recorded information held by public authorities. In response to a request the public authority must tell the applicant whether it holds the information, and must normally supply it within 20 working days.
These rights are subject to procedural and substantive limitations. The substantive limitations, or exemptions, ensure a proper balance is achieved between the right to know, the right to personal privacy and the delivery of effective government. For instance a public authority does not have to confirm or deny the existence of the information or provide it if an exemption applies, the request is vexatious or similar to a previous request, or if the cost of compliance exceeds an appropriate limit.
Of course individuals already have the right of access to personal information about themselves under the Data Protection Act 1998. As far as the Council and other public authorities are concerned, the Freedom of Information Act extends this right to allow public access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities such as the Council. Public authorities have two main responsibilities under the Act: to produce a 'Publication Scheme' (a guide to the information held which is publicly available) and dealing with individual requests for information.
How to make a Freedom of Information request
Anyone is able to make a request for information. The request must be in writing (for example an email or letter) and it must:
- state the name of the applicant
- an address for correspondence
- description of the information sought
You can send your Freedom of Information request or any questions about Freedom of Information to:
The Corporate Information Governance Manager
Corporate Performance, Policy and Information
Telephone: 0121 704 6251
Will there be a charge?
The Council is allowed to recover the costs of printing, copying and postage and package. You will only be asked to pay printing or photocopying costs if they are £5 or more. The costs will normally be calculated at 10 pence per sheet of paper and 20 pence for double sided printed paper, however there may be times when costs exceed this. If this is the case you will be notified and a reason provided.
What is a publication scheme?
A publication scheme is a description of the kinds of information that a public authority should make routinely available and the ways it makes information available.
Public authorities must adopt a publication scheme approved by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). To make sure that there is consistency in the release of information, the ICO has developed a model publication scheme that any public authority can use. The publication scheme commits an authority to make information available as part of its normal business activities.
The Council has adopted the model scheme. This is our legal commitment to routinely make available the kinds of information which the ICO requires us to.
We are making the majority of information available free and through our website. Where we are unable to do so we have provided contact details that people can use to access the information, for example who to contact to arrange for information to be sent out to you or where to come and view the information.
The model scheme
The model scheme classifies information at a high level and broadly states the way authorities can provide information and what they can charge for.
The model specifies seven classes of information. To maximise the routine release of information the categories have been set at a high level. Most information that a public authority holds falls into the seven classes.
These are the 7 classes of information we must make available.
- Who we are and what we do
Organisational information, structures, locations and contacts.
- What we spend and how we spend it
Financial information about projected and actual income and expenditure, procurement, contracts and financial audit.
- What our priorities are and how we are doing
Strategies and plans, performance indicators, audits, inspections and reviews.
- How we make decisions
Decision-making processes and records of decisions.
- Our policies and procedures
Current written protocols, policies and procedures for delivering our services and responsibilities.
- Lists and registers
Information held in registers required by law and other lists and registers relating to the functions of the authority.
- Services provided by the Council
Information about the services the Council provides including leaflets, guidance and newsletters.
Requesting information from the publication scheme
If you cannot find the information that you think should be made routinely available in the Publication Scheme or on our website, or details of how you can obtain the information, please contact us and explain what information you are seeking. The contact details are the same as for making Freedom of Information requests.