We are required to provide advice and help if you have made, or are thinking of making, a request. This is to help you understand your rights under the Act and identify the information you want.
We may reply to your request (perhaps by phone) to discuss your request with you and make sure we understand what you want.
We will let you know if the information you have requested is held by the council. If so, we will provide it to you within 20 working days of receiving your request, unless:
- an exemption applies, or
- we need to charge a fee to cover costs of copying or posting the information. If we need to charge a fee we will tell you how much it is. If you have a limit to how much you can pay please tell us as soon as you can.
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.
What will happen next?
The director of the department that provides the service you have asked about will be responsible for answering your request but will probably ask the manager of that service to manage it.
He or she may need to ask for information from other managers in the council if your request has a wide scope. He or she might ask for advice within the department, or from the Information Management Officer, or the council's legal officers.
When the information has been collected together it will be checked to see if any exemptions apply. If any information is withheld as exempt you will normally be told why on the list of documents that will 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 does have it, your request may be transferred to that authority. You will be told about this. Alternatively we may simply advise you to contact the other body 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 will take account of their views it will always be the council that makes the final decision.
Whilst the Act creates a right access information held by public bodies, it also allows for a number of exemptions from that right. These are called exemptions.
If something is exempt under the act then we do not have to give it out. There are two types of exemption: qualified and absolute.
Public interest exemptions occur when it can be shown that it is against the public interest for the information to be given out. This is a formal test. If the information is being withheld, we will tell you if it exists, unless we decide that that public interest is better served by not revealing even this. These include:
- information intended for future publication (you will usually be told when it will be available)
- investigations, legal proceedings and law enforcement
- health and safety
- information affecting anyone's commercial interests
When an absolute exemption applies there is no need for the public interest test. These include:
- information accessible by other means. This includes includes information covered by the Publication Scheme
- where disclosure is prohibited by law or would be in contempt of court
- information provided in confidence.
Further advice about exemptions and other issues concerned with the Act has been provided by the Information Commissioner: Introduction to Freedom of Information.
If you are dissatisfied or unhappy with our response you have the right to ask for a review of how your enquiry was handled and responded to.
Contact us by email: firstname.lastname@example.org stating your reason(s) why you are dissatisfied, and we will pass this on to be investigated by the relevant senior manager/officer.
If after an investigation is complete you remain dissatisfied with the response, you can contact the Information Commissioner's Office on tel: 01625 545 745 (or tel: 0303 123 1113, local rate), or write to:
Wycliffe House Water Lane