What is Freedom of Information?
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 aims to increase openness and accountability in government by ensuring that people have the right to access information held by public authorities.
What are my rights to ask for information?
Our Publication Scheme sets out what kinds of information it will make routinely available, how you can get it and what it will cost. You have the right to request any of the information identified in the Publication Scheme. If you want information that is not included in the Publication Scheme you can contact us and ask for information that we may hold on any subject or relating to a particular topic. There are a number of exemptions under the Act that may be applied to protect information that needs to be kept confidential. If we cannot tell you whether we have the information you want, or if we refuse to disclose information we hold, we will explain the reasons and you will have the opportunity to appeal against our decision.
Where can I view the Publication Scheme?
You can view it on our Freedom of Information Publication Scheme webpage.
Details of spending and chief officers information can be found on our 'What we spend and how we spend it' page.
What if the Council does not hold the information?
If we do not have the information, but believe another public authority holds it, we will tell you. We will only forward your request to the correct public authority if you have requested us to do so in your application.
How do I apply for information?
Apply for a Freedom of Information Request
It is important that you describe as clearly as possible the information you want so that we can identify and locate it. Please give us any relevant dates, names of officers involved, details of meetings and any other specific information relating to your request. If we are unable to identify the information you want from the details you supply, we will ask you to clarify your request.
If you have difficulty in making a request we will do as much as is reasonably possible to help and assist you. If you believe that we have not been sufficiently helpful, you can complain using our complaints procedure.
How long does it take to get the information?
We will respond as soon as possible, and not later than 20 working days after receiving your request or, if we have asked for clarification, after you have provided the extra information we need. If a fee is payable, any time waiting for you to pay the fee does not count towards the 20 days. Sometimes we may have a difficult decision to make as to whether we can release the information you have requested, and time taken to reach that decision also does not count towards the 20 days - but we will keep you informed and make a decision as soon as possible. If there are any other problems in dealing with your request within the 20 working days, we will let you know.
Is there a charge?
If you are requesting information contained in our Publication Scheme, the scheme will also give details of how much, if anything, we will charge for providing the information.
For other requests we may be entitled to make a charge, for example to cover the reasonable costs of photocopying information or supplying you with a computer disk and for postage.
If the cost of locating the information is more than £450 we can refuse to supply the information or could ask you to pay a fee which would include a contribution in respect of officer time spent on dealing with your request. This would be calculated in accordance with the Freedom of Information (Fees and Appropriate Limit) Regulations 2004. If we do need to charge we will send you a “Fees Notice” which you will need to pay before our detailed search begins. If you are not in a position to pay a fee, please contact us for further advice.
How can I receive the information?
You may request that the information be supplied in any form. However, we will take into account the cost and practicality of supplying the information in this form before complying with your request. In particular, you may ask for information in permanent form, in summary form, or for permission to inspect records containing the information.
What happens if my request is refused?
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 excludes access to some information – known as exempt information – which means that it does not have to be supplied on request. Exempt information includes personal information we hold about other people, or information which is already available through our publication scheme. Often we will have to decide whether it is in the public interest to release information. Our policy is that we should always release information unless there is good reason, allowed by the law, not to.
If your request is refused, in most cases we will be able to tell you why, identify which exemption we are applying, and give you details of how to appeal against the refusal. If, after this internal appeal, we still refuse your request, you may ask the Information Commissioner to review our decision and finally, if even that does not help, you may have a right of appeal to a special court called the Information Tribunal.
What is the difference between this and the Data Protection Act 1998?
The Freedom of Information Act refers to public information that we hold in any format, and allows any person to request it. The Data Protection Act refers to personal information, and this can only be requested by the person the information relates to. You do not need to say under which Act you are applying for information. It is up to us to deal with your application under the correct Act.
If you are unhappy about the way that we have dealt with your Freedom of Information request, please contact Customer Services
in the first instance.
Complaints to us regarding freedom of information can be made in person, in writing or submitted online
. More information on our complaints procedure.
If we are unable to resolve your complaint, you may seek an independent review from the Information Commissioner by writing to:
Telephone: 01625 545745
Fax: 01625 524 510
Freedom of Information Documents
If you require any further information please contact us.