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Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 gives a statutory right of access to all information held by public authorities, subject to some exemptions

The Act is designed to make public bodies open, accessible and accountable and impacts the way that this, and every Council, responds to requests for information.

The Act provides the public with two new rights:

  • a right to know what information public authorities hold
  • a right of access to that information

Environmental Information Regulations 2004

Public authorities also have a duty to make environmental information available under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR), subject to some exceptions.

Administration of the request procedure is similar to FOI but not the same. Some environmental information requests may be refused under section 39 of the Freedom of Information Act and then answered under EIR.

Make an FOI/EIR request

Under FOI, anyone, anywhere can request information about the Council and its business. The only stipulation is that a Freedom of Information request should be received in writing (this could be a fax, email or letter).

EIR requests can be made by phone or in person as well as in writing, but for adminstrative reasons we would prefer to receive a written request.

You can also make a request using our online form:

""  Freedom of Information Request Form

Requests can be made to access any information held by the Council. This could be information held in an official report, a briefing document, emails, fax or even notes. The information can be about the Council’s current business or from years gone by.

Since the "general right of access" to public information came into force in January 2005, the number of FOI requests received by the Council has increased significantly:

Year 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Number of requests 62 80 136 172 247 295 406 389 446

Exemptions and Exceptions

There may be legitimate reasons for withholding information. Under the Freedom of Information Act they are called exemptions, and under the Environmental Information Regulations they are called exceptions. Unless information is covered by an exemption or exception it must be released if requested.

Publication scheme

Under FOI legislation all public authorities must have a publication scheme:

publication_scheme_2014__-_protected.doc

This details information that is routinely made available by the Council and whether there is a charge for this information. Because it is accessible elsewhere, this information is exempt under the FOI Act.

For further information please email our FOI Officer at: service@north-herts.gov.uk

The Information Commissioner

The Information Commissioner is responsible for overseeing the Freedom of Information Act, the Environmental Information Regulations and the Data Protection Act. The Commissioner is responsible for the issue of advice and guidance but also has enforcement powers. Breaches or refusals to comply with the Information Commissioner’s direction can ultimately lead to a contempt of court with substantial fines or in extreme cases imprisonment.

Further information

Guide to Freedom of Information (Information Commissioner's Office)