Freedom of Information
The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act entitles anybody to ask a public authority such as the Council for any recorded information that they keep.
The Act gives members of the public greater access to information about how decisions are taken in government and how public services are developed and delivered.
The Act operates alongside the Data Protection Act (DPA), which allows people to access information about themselves (eg personnel records) and the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR), which give people access to information about the environment.
The Council has a Publication Scheme which is also available at the Council's offices. The scheme lists the information which the Council routinely makes available, and states whether you will have to pay for that information. First, check the publication scheme to see if the information you want has already been published. This could save you - and us - time and money. If the information you want is not listed in the Scheme, you can still ask to see it.
Asking for Information
All requests for information must be made in writing and can be sent to the Council by letter, fax or e-mail. E-mails should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. You must clearly state what information you are requesting and supply your name and address so that the information can be sent to you. You do not need to say why you want the information.
You can ask to have any recorded information. This could be in the form of e-mails, notebooks, videos or tapes.
In most cases, a public authority must respond to your request within 20 working days of receiving it and, if it cannot, it will explain why and let you know when you will receive a reply.
Declining a request
The Council will provide you with the information unless there is a good reason for not doing so (eg your request relates to someone else's personal details). We must provide you with a reason for declining your request. If you do not find the reason persuasive, you can ask the Council to reconsider its decision using our Complaints Procedure. If you are still unhappy, you can ask the Information Commissioner's Office to review the decision. The Information Commissioner's Office is an independent body that enforces the FOI Act, the DPA and the EIR.
You can say in what format you would prefer to receive the information (eg on paper or electronically). You should discuss these formats with the person dealing with your request. In some cases (eg for people with disabilities), there may be an entitlement to a particular format: again, you should discuss this with the person dealing with your request.
A lot of information will be supplied free of charge. However, sometimes you may have to pay a fee, either to cover administration costs, or to pay photocopying or postage costs, or because of the expense involved in finding and supplying the information. You will be told in advance if a fee will apply.