What is the Freedom of Information Act?
The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act entitles anybody to ask a public authority in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, including government departments, for any recorded information that they keep.
The act gives us all greater access to information about how decisions are taken in government and how public services are developed and delivered.
The FOI Act operates alongside the Data Protection Act and the Environmental Information Regulations. The Data Protection Act allows people to access information about themselves (for example personnel records, or information held by credit reference agencies). The Environmental Information Regulations give people access to information about the environment.
How do I ask for information?
Requests for information can be made online, by pdf application form, in writing, by telephone or in person. Please refer to the 'Access to information request' page for more details. You must clearly state what information you are requesting and supply your name and address. You do not need to say why you want the information, although it might help us to find the information you require if you do.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is an independent body that enforces the Freedom of Information Act , the Data Protection Act and the Environmental Information Regulations, and has produced some guidance, the 'FOI charter', on what to consider before making your request.
All public authorities covered by the Freedom of Information Act must adopt a publication scheme approved by the ICO. The scheme lists the classes of information that we routinely make available.
What type of information can I ask to have?
You can ask to have any recorded information. This could be in the form of e-mails, notebooks, videos or tapes.
When will I receive the information?
In most cases we'll aim to respond to your request within 20 working days of receiving it, and if we can't we'll explain why and let you know when you'll receive a reply.
Can my request be declined?
We'll provide you with the information unless there's a good reason for not doing so - for example if your request relates to the personal details of another person. If we decline your request, we'll let you know why we made this decision. If you don't agree, you can ask us to reconsider our decision. If the request is still declined you can ask the Information Commissioner's Office to review the decision.
What format can I request information to be in?
You can request that your information is supplied in any format (for example paper or electronically), although there may be a charge for some formats.
How much will it cost to make a request?
A lot of information may be supplied free of charge. However, sometimes you may have to pay a fee, either to cover administration costs, or to pay photocopying or postage costs, or because of the expense involved in finding and supplying the information. You'll be told in advance if a fee will apply.