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 Councils respond 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
The Council's procedures for handling FOI and EIR requests and our procedure for Reviews and Complaints under DPA are attached below.
Make an FOI request
Anyone can request information about the Council and its business using a FOI request. The only stipulation is that a FOI request should be received in writing (this could be a fax, email or letter).
Requests can be made to access any information held by the Council both past and present. This could be information held in an official report, a briefing document, emails, fax or even notes.
Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) requests can be made by phone or in person as well as in writing.
Environmental Information Regulations
Public authorities also have a duty to make environmental information available under the EIR, subject to some exceptions.
They are legally enforceable regulations that govern the public's right to access environmental information held in the public domain. Information covered by the regulations includes the state of the air, atmosphere, water, soil, land, landscape, as well as factors affecting the above elements such as substances, energy, noise, radiation or waste, emissions, discharges into the environment.
Administration of the request procedure is similar to FOI. Some environmental information requests may be refused under section 39 of the Freedom of Information Act and then answered under EIR.
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.
Number of FOI requests received
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:
|Number of requests||62||80||136||172||247||295||406||389||446||633||548||630||651||783||837|