The purpose of the Act is to promote greater openness by public bodies, including local authorities such as the Borough Council. Individuals already have the right to access personal information about themselves under the Data Protection Act 1998. As far as public authorities are concerned, the Freedom of Information Act has now extended this right to allow the public access to all types of information held by the authority. One of the ways in which the Council aims to give the public access to information is by publishing and maintain a Publication Scheme.
Anyone is entitled to make a request for information.
You can apply for access to any information recorded in any form held by any of the wide range of bodies covered by the Act. This includes the right to seek access to actual documents and records held by the authority.
The Council's Publication Scheme is simply a guide to the types of information that the Council will make available to the public as a matter of routine. As well as describing the types of information that the Council will make available, the scheme also indicates whether a charge is made and also the form in which the information is published.
The Council's Publication Scheme identifies which of the Council's departments holds the information you are requesting.
If the information is not available within the Publication Scheme, the information should be requested either by downloading and completing the 'Freedom of Information' application form, by writing a letter or sending an e-mail.
Requests for information should be in writing and be clear enough to enable the Council to identify and locate the information requested. However, if we need further clarification from you in order to identify and locate the information requested, then we will tell you what clarification we require.
If the Council needs further clarification from you in order to identify and locate the information requested, then we will tell you what clarification is required. In those cases, the Council is not obliged to supply the information to you unless you give the further clarification that is requested.
If the Council decides not to disclose the information that is requested, you are entitled to know why. The Council must give notice to you that the information is not being disclosed, must specify which exemption is being relied upon and, if it not obvious, explain why the exemption applies in that particular case.
The notice will give particulars of the Council's procedures for dealing with complaints and of the right to apply to the Information Commissioner.
The Council already has in place a procedure for dealing with complaints and applicants who consider that their request has not been handled properly may make a complaint through this procedure.
Where the outcome upholds the Council's original decision, the applicant has the subsequent right to apply to the Information Commissioner's Office, who will investigate the complaint and determine whether the request for information has been dealt with in accordance with the requirements of the Act. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:
Information Commissioner's Office
Cheshire SK9 5AF
Tel no: 01625 545 700
If information is requested that is contained in the Council's Publication Scheme, the Scheme identifies where a charge for providing that information. If the request is made under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, a fee will be charged which will be calculated according to the Government's Fee Regulations.
Where such a fee is charged, it will be necessary for it to be paid in advance. If the fee is not paid within three months of the original request, the request will be considered lapsed.
Personal information relating to an applicant is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. The right to know whether personal information is held, and if so, to have access to it is covered by the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998.
A great deal of the information which the Council holds is personal and private to particular individuals. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not deal with this. Therefore, the Freedom of Information Act does not, for instance, make public confidential information about an individual's Council Tax payments, Benefits, tenancy and other arrangements with the Council. In other words, your private affairs and any business that you have with the Council as an individual is not the subject of the Act. The relevant legislation is the Data Protection Act 1998.