FOI Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the Freedom of Information Act?
- What are the public bodies the Act applies to?
- Who can make a request for information?
- What information is available?
- Can I ask for personal information?
- Will there be a charge?
- How many requests can I make?
The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act came into force in 2000 and covers any information held by public bodies. The principle of the Act is that information on any subject held by any public body should be available to the public. The aim is to make public bodies more accountable and transparent. The right of access to information given in the Act includes both a right for you to be told if the information exists, and if so a right to receive it, subject to certain exemptions.
The Act applies to all public authorities. That includes central and local government, the Police, the armed forces, health services and other public bodies in England and Wales.
Any person can request information under the Act regardless of age, nationality or where they live. The right to make a request applies to individuals and to companies.
All information held by a public body, although there are a number of exemptions which may be applied to protect the confidentiality of some information. If you request information which is “exempt” the Council will tell you why the information cannot be released.
Authorities are required to produce a publication scheme which sets out the information they already make publicly available and whether there is a charge for that information.
Requests for environmental information will be dealt with under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
If you make a request for information about yourself the Council will deal with it under the Data Protection Act.
If your request is for personal information on a third party it will be dealt with under the FOI Act.
If it will take more than one and a half days to find the information you have requested, the Council may charge for dealing with your request. Regulations set out what the Council can charge for and the maximum amount it can charge. There may also be a charge for photocopying information.
Following a request, the Council will let you know how much it will cost to make the information available to you. You can then decide whether or not you wish to continue with your request. If you refuse to pay the fee the Council does not have to make the information available.
The Act does not limit the number of requests you can make.
However, it states that a public authority can reserve the right to refuse requests which are considered to be vexatious or are repeated. This may include repeated requests from the same person for the same information or requests which are intended to disrupt the authority’s work.