The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) allow you to request information from public authorities so you have a better insight into the work we carry out on your behalf.
You can request any recorded information that we hold, but we may not be able to provide everything if what you've asked for is particularly sensitive.
Personal information about yourself is treated differently and you're not entitled to this under the FOIA or EIR. Instead, you can submit a Subject Access Request, which is covered by the Data Protection Act.
You can find guidance on your right of access to information on the Information Commissioner's Office website.
Please be aware that given the changing nature of the situation and the council's need to prioritise its services, there may be a delay in our response time which will exceed the 20-day deadline for FOI requests.
Before you make a request you should check to see if the information is already available in one of the following places:
- Council Open Data and Information
- Information Request Disclosure Log
- Public registers such as Planning or Licensing registers
- FOI Publication Scheme
What information is already available?
We are required to publish a lot of information so an FOI request might not be necessary. Before you make a request you should check to see if the information is already available in one of the following places:
The Open Data page has links to the information we're required to publish and our most frequently requested datasets, including:
- several datasets on business rates
- information about the council's accounts and expenditure
- which contracts we hold
- what land and properties we own and
- the management structure of the council.
Information request disclosure log
When someone makes an FOI or EIR request we send the response back to them, but sometimes the information they've requested might be of value or interest to other people. The disclosure log is where we publish the results of information requests we've received that might have a lasting value to other local people. Therefore, if you have a question to ask you can check here to see if someone else has asked before and what our response was.
Planning and licensing registers
We're required to keep a register of planning applications and the licences we grant to local people and businesses. You can find planning records and most of our licensing records on the Public Access system. If your query is about a particular planning application, taxi licence or premises licence then the answer might already be there.
Publication scheme page
The FOI Act requires us to produce a Publication Scheme which lists all information that is currently published, the format in which it is available and any applicable charges. This page can be a good guide to the other data and information which we publish.
How do I make an FOI request?
If you can't find the information you're seeking then you can make an information request.
All requests must be made in writing. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the online form. Your request will then be logged onto our case management system and assigned to the appropriate team within the council.
Requests are easiest for us to handle where you have clearly described what you're looking for - we may not be able to answer requests that are too broad.
Therefore, please think about:
- what time-frame you're interested in
- whether you can include any particular case references to help us search
- if there are particular departments or people you want to focus on
- if there is any other detail you can include to help us handle your request.
If we're unsure about what you're seeking we may ask you for clarification, but this can delay our response.
Once we've received your request we have 20 working days to gather the information, prepare it, consider whether it contains any sensitive information and provide it to you with a written response.Make a Freedom of Information Request
Can you refuse to provide me with information?
While we want to be as transparent as possible, there is some information that we have to protect and can't provide to members of the public.
The FOI Act has several exemptions to your right to access information in order to protect certain types of information.
For example, disclosing information about an ongoing criminal case could jeopardise its success. Providing information about a contract we're negotiating could result in worse value for money and information that's provided to us confidentially has been carefully considered.
Answering some requests can be too much of a burden on our resources. If we estimate a request would take longer than 18 hours to handle then we can refuse to answer.
If you're unhappy with the way we've handled a request you can write to us and request an internal review by explaining why you think we've wrongly applied the legislation. Your appeal with then be considered by a more senior member of the council. If you still have concerns after your internal review you can make a complaint to the Information Commissioner.
You can find more information on the reasons for refusing a request on the Information Commissioner's website.