Your council

How we deal with Freedom of Information requests

We'll provide advice and help if you make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

Unless an exemption applies, we'll help you understand your rights under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, and identify the information you want.

While dealing with your FOI requests, we will:

  • reply to you (perhaps by telephone) to discuss your request
  • make sure we understand what you want
  • let you know if we hold the information you've requested
  • provide the information within 20 working days of receiving your request
  • let you know of any fees to cover costs of copying or posting the information (if you have a limit to how much you can pay tell us as soon as possible)

While dealing with your FOI requests, we will not:

  • ask you why you want the information, or what it will be used for
  • ask you to keep what we have told you confidential
  • refuse any request unless an exemption applies

Our process for dealing with FOI requests

The director of the department that provides the service you've asked about will be responsible for answering your request - they'll probably ask the manager of the appropriate service to help with the process:

  • information will be gathered from other managers if your request has a wide scope
  • advice may also be sought within the department, or from the Information Management Officer, or our legal team
  • collated information will be checked to see if any exemptions apply

If any information is 'withheld as exempt' you'll normally be told why on the list of documents that accompany the copies we send you.

If the information you've requested is not held by the council, but we know that another public authority has it, your request may be transferred to that authority. You'll be told about this. Alternatively we may simply advise you to contact the other authority directly.

Providing information to you might affect the rights of other people or organisations – 'third parties'. For instance it might include personal data about other people, or material that affects their business. If so we may contact them to help us decide whether the information is exempt. Although we'll take account of their views it will always be the council that makes the final decision.

Freedom of Information exemptions

Whilst the Freedom of Information Act 2000 creates a 'right access information held by public bodies' there are a number of exemptions from that right. If something is exempt under The Act then we don't have to provide the information.

Qualified exemptions

'Qualified exemptions' occur when it's against the public interest for information to be given out; this is a formal test. If the information is being withheld, we'll tell you if it exists, unless we decide that that public interest is better served by not revealing even this. Qualified exemptions include:

  • information intended for future publication (you'll usually be told when it will be available)
  • investigations, legal proceedings and law enforcement
  • health and safety
  • information affecting anyone's commercial interests

Absolute exemptions

If an 'absolute exemption' applies to a FOI request there's no need for the 'public interest test', this includes when:

  • information is accessible by other means, such as the Publication Scheme
  • disclosure is prohibited by law, or would be in contempt of court
  • information provided in confidence

Get further advice about exemptions and other issues from the Information Commissioner's Office.

FOI complaints

Email our Information Management Officer to request a review of your enquiry if you're dissatisfied with our response to your FOI request. Include the reasons you're dissatisfied so this can be investigated by the relevant Senior Manager. If you remain dissatisfied with outcome of the investigation contact the Information Commissioner's Office on telephone: 03031 231113.

Alternatively, write to:

Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House Water Lane

Also see

Corporate Governance Team - Information Governance

West Offices, Station Rise, York, YO1 6GA

Telephone: 01904 554145