What is the Freedom of Information Act?
It is legislation that gives an individual a right of access to recorded information held by public authorities, such as the Council. There are two main responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FoIA):
- to produce a 'Publication Scheme': a guide to the information held which is publicly available and
- to process individual requests for recorded information.
What is a publication scheme?
Public authorities must adopt a publication scheme approved by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). The publication scheme commits an authority to make information available as part of its normal business activities. It describes the types of information that a public authority should make routinely available and the ways it makes information available.
The Council has adopted the ICO model publication scheme. This is our legal commitment to routinely make available the kinds of information the ICO requires.
What categories of information are available through the Publication Scheme?
There are specifically seven classes of information available and most information that a public authority holds falls into one of them. The categories are:
- Who we are and what we do
Organisational information, including Council structures, locations and contacts./li>
- What we spend and how we spend it
Financial information, including contracts, tenders, projected and actual income and expenditure, procurement 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, such as Council or Committee meeting minutes.
- Our policies and procedures
Current written protocols, policies and procedures for delivering our services and responsibilities, including the Council Constitution.
- Lists and registers
Information held in registers required by law and other lists and registers relating to the functions of the authority, such as allotments, gifts and hospitality and councillor interests.
- Services provided by the Council
Information about the services the Council provides, such as waste and recycling, planning and school admissions. This includes leaflets, guidance and newsletters.
How is the Council making this information available?
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.
What if the information is not available from the Publication Scheme?
If there is something specific that is not already available, you can make an individual request under the legislation.
How do I make a Freedom of Information (FoIA) request?
Anyone is able to make a request for information. The legislation states it has to be made in writing, for example by email or letter and it must contain all of the following:
- the name of the applicant;
- an address for correspondence; and
- a description of the information sought.
You can send your request to:
Corporate Information Governance Manager
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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 and you will be notified and a reason provided if this is the case.
What happens after I have submitted a request?
The Council must advise whether it holds the information, and must normally supply it within 20 working days. However, if your request is unclear and we need further details to establish if we hold the information, we may ask you for clarification. The time limit will stop and will not restart until we receive the additional detail from you.
Will I receive all of the information I request?
Not necessarily. Responses under this legislation are not just made to the requestor, but made to ‘the whole world’. So there are exemptions within FoIA to ensure a proper balance is achieved between the right to know, the right to personal privacy and the delivery of effective government. If we apply any exemptions, we must explain why we have done so in our response.
What exemptions can be applied to a response?
There are a number of exemptions and a few examples are listed below:
- The cost of providing the requested information is more than £450 (this is equivalent to 18 hours of staff time);
- The information is already publicly available or it is due to be published;
- The information requested could be used by anyone to make fraudulent claims against the Council;
- The request is for personal information.
What if I am not satisfied with the response I have received?
If you wish to request a review of our decision or make a complaint about how your request has been handled under FoIA, you should write within 40 days of receipt of your response to:
Corporate Information Governance Manager
ICT and Information Governance
Any requests received after this time will be considered at the discretion of the Corporate Information Governance Manager. If having exhausted the review process you are not content that your request or review has been dealt with correctly, you have a further right of appeal to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for a decision:
The Information Commissioner's Office
Telephone: 0303 123 1113 (local rate) or 01625 545 745 (national rate).