Access to information
Citizens are entitled to access non-personal information held by public authorities such as Councils. This is a legal right provided by The Freedom of Information Act (FOI) 2000. Information held by or on behalf of a public authority should be accessible and not be restricted simply because the authority does not own that information.
Every public authority is required to create a Publication Scheme. This document details all the published information for which the authority holds and how members of the public can access it. This scheme can accessed through the public authority's website or on request. Examples of information that may be obtained form public authorities, but is not limited to, are procedures and policies, background documents and statistics.
How to make a request
The FOI 2000 provides that a local authority is legally obliged to provide information on request. A request must be made in writing (letter, email or facsimile) to the authority holding the information. Any request must clearly detail the information required and state what particular form it is required in, i.e., paper copy or electronic form (email) etc.
Within 20 working days, the public authority should comply with your request. The authority may request an extension to this time limit to consider your request. This request should be confirmed in writing and explain the reasons why it is necessary and the estimated time of response.
Accessing information through the FOI 2000 should not entail a charge. However, should the cost of retrieving and providing the required information surpass the 'appropriate limit' than a public authority has no duty to comply with the information request. Currently, the appropriate limit for central government requests is £600.00 and £450.00 for local authority requests.
There may be a charge for copying and postage, but this should be reasonable (i.e. around 10 pence per A4 copy).