The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 gives you right of access to all information held by the Council.
Read the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) guide to freedom of information.
Make a FOI request
FOI requests must be in writing. You can contact us by email: email@example.com.
Your request must include:
- the name of the person requesting the information
- an address for correspondence (a phone number or email address is also useful if we need to clarify your request)
- a description of the information required
If you have a preference, please also tell us what format you would like to receive the information (eg in paper, by email etc).
Your request does not have to mention the legislation, and you do not have to tell us why you want the information, but the more details you can give, the more effective we can be in providing the information you require.
Make a verbal request
Under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) you can make a request verbally. An officer will transcribe this and then we will confirm your request in writing.
Environmental information pertains to the elements such as air and atmosphere, water, soil, land, landscape and natural sites including wetlands, coastal and marine areas, biological diversity and its components, including genetically modified organisms, and the interaction among these elements or factors.
What happens next?
We will acknowledge your request usually within 5 working days. We will then assess the request and estimate the amount of work involved in answering it.
The legislation limits the amount of time that an authority has to spend meeting a request to 18 actual working hours. This is plenty of time to deal with most requests but if a request requires the collection and copying of a very large amount of information that is spread across departments, it may take more than 18 hours to provide the information.
If we are unclear about exactly what you want, or your request is so large that it will take longer than 18 working hours to provide the information, we will contact you to clarify exactly what you need.
We have a maximum of 20 working days from the day after we receive the request to provide the information. If we need to ask for fees and/or any further information needed to clarify the request we will ‘stop the clock’ until we have received this.
Can you refuse my request?
There are a number of reasons for refusing to provide information, including:
- we do not hold the information
- it will take more than 18 working hours to provide the information (we will contact you and try to narrow your requirements)
- if an exemption applies (see below)
If any of these apply we will write to you explaining why we cannot provide the information, along with instructions on how to appeal against this decision.
There is some information that we cannot make publicly available without significantly disrupting the ability of the Council to deliver services, breaching privacy or confidentiality agreements, or endangering public safety. The Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Regulations both have a list of exemptions that can be applied in these circumstances.
There are 23 exemptions and a full list is available on the ICO's website. Some of these do not apply to information held by a local authority.
Exempt information that we hold includes:
- social care records
- information relating to current contract negotiations
- disaster response plans as the release of these could endanger public safety
- current investigation records whose release would affect our ability to enforce the law
Embarrassment to the Council is not an exemption.
Some of the exemptions apply in all circumstances but for others, we have to consider whether it is more in the public interest to release the information than to withhold it.
If we do decide that an exemption applies we will tell you why, and where relevant, the public interest reasons for doing so. You can appeal against this decision and details of how to do this will be included in our response.
What will it cost me?
If a request will take more than 18 working hours to collate, we are not obliged to provide the information. In some circumstances, we may agree to provide the information but ask the requester to contribute to the cost of meeting the request. In these circumstances, we will charge an hourly rate of £25 after the first 18 working hours. The Council does not have to comply with the request if the cost of complying will exceed the limit of £450 which is based on 18 hours at £25 per hour.
You will be advised of any charges and have 3 months to decide if you would like the request to continue. Payment must be made before the information is collected. Where possible, we will let you know if the request can be simplified so the information required can be collected within 18 working hours.
What happens if I'm not happy?
If you feel that your request has not been handled well, you do not agree that the information will be exempt, or you disagree with the suggested cost of providing the information, you can request an Internal Review of the original decision. Details of how to appeal will be provided with any response to your request.
A chief officer will review your case to ensure that the officers dealing with the original request have done so in line with the requirements of the legislation. If they decide that information should not be exempt then it will be released.
If you are not satisfied with this decision you can complain to the Information Commissioner who is independent of the Council.
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