Freedom of information - Make an application

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  • You can ask for any information you think a public authority may hold. The right only covers recorded information which includes information held on computers, in emails and in printed or handwritten documents as well as images, video and audio recordings.
  • You should identify the information you want as clearly as possible.
  • Your request can be in the form of a question, rather than a request for specific documents, but the authority does not have to answer your question if this would mean creating new information or giving an opinion or judgment that is not already recorded.
  • Some information may not be given to you because it is exempt, for example because it would unfairly reveal personal details about somebody else

Freedom of Information Request Introduction

Under UK law, you have the right to ask for information from any publicly-funded body. The Freedom of Information Act ( FOIA ) gives you the right to access recorded information held by public sector organisations.

Anyone can request information – there are no restrictions on your age, nationality or where you live.

The purpose of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (or the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 in Scotland) exists to ensure that people have the right to access information held by public authorities. Please refer to your local authority's Publication Scheme regarding what information is available and how to obtain it, along with any associated costs. Should you have any other queries, you should contact your local authority.

You can use resolver to submit your freedom iof information request.

Information Request England & Wales

Under the Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Regulations you have a right to request any recorded information held by a public authority, such as a government department, local council or state school. Environmental information requests can also be made to certain non-public bodies carrying out a public function.

When can you ask for information

  • You can ask for any information you think a public authority may hold. The right only covers recorded information which includes information held on computers, in emails and in printed or handwritten documents as well as images, video and audio recordings.
  • You should identify the information you want as clearly as possible.
  • Your request can be in the form of a question, rather than a request for specific documents, but the authority does not have to answer your question if this would mean creating new information or giving an opinion or judgment that is not already recorded.
  • Some information may not be given to you because it is exempt, for example because it would unfairly reveal personal details about somebody else.

What are the legal requirements for a request

For your request to be dealt with according to the Freedom of Information Act, you must:

  • contact the relevant authority directly;
  • make the request in writing, for example in a letter or an email. You can make a verbal or written request for environmental information;
  • give your real name; and give an address to which the authority can reply. This can be a postal or email address.

What happens once you make the request

The authority must reply to you within 20 working days. It may:

  • give you the information you’ve asked for;
  • tell you it doesn’t have the information;
  • tell you that another authority holds the information or transfer the request on your behalf;
  • under the Freedom of Information Act, say that it has the information and offer to provide it if you pay them a fee (but there are rules about what they can charge);
  • under the Environmental Information Regulations, make a reasonable charge for providing information in accordance with their published schedule of charges.

Note: If the authority allows you to view a public register or other information in person, at a place of their choice, it cannot charge for this; refuse to give you the information, and explain why; or, under the Freedom of Information Act, say that it needs more time to consider the public interest in disclosing or withholding the information, and tell you when to expect a response.

This should not be later than 40 working days after the date of your request. It can only extend the time limit in certain circumstances, and it must explain why it thinks the information may be exempt; under the Environmental Information Regulations, say that it needs more time as the information requested is particularly complex and there is a lot of information to provide. In such cases the time limit can be extended by a further 20 working days as long as the authority respond within the initial time limit stating when it believes it will be able to respond in full.

What if you are disatisfied

You should first complain to the authority and ask it to conduct an internal review. For freedom of information complaints we recommend that you do this as soon as possible and within two months of receiving the authority’s final response

For environmental information complaints you should make your complaint within 40 working days.

The Information Commissioner’s Office recommends that public authorities carry out internal reviews within 20 working days. Under Environmental Regulations Information there is a legal requirement that internal reviews must be carried out as soon as possible and within 40 working days. The authority cannot charge for carrying out an internal review. If you believe that the public authority has not dealt with your complaint properly, then you can esclate your case to the Information Commissioners Office.

Infomation requests Scotland

You can ask for any kind of "recorded" information from a Scottish public authority - however old the information is. That includes information recorded on: paper computer files, including emails video microfiche. You can only ask for information that is recorded. For example, you cannot ask for someone's opinion that has not been put on record.

You must make your request in writing, or any other form that can be kept for future use, such as email, fax, audio or video tape. If you want your FOI rights to apply, you can't ask verbally (for example by telephone or at an office) - unless you are asking for environmental information.

You must provide a name and address so that the authority can respond

If you ask by email, you must include your name within the body of the email, but you don't have to give your postal address (although it is likely to be helpful if you do).

You can add other contact information such as a telephone number. It can help speed up the response if the authority can get in touch with you quickly to check a point.

Remember to make it clear

Make your request as clear as possible. Focus on the information you really want to see - if your request is too broad, it may be refused because of the cost of responding to it.

If you are not sure what information you want, ask the public authority to help you describe what you're looking for.

If the authority doesn't have the information you want, it might be able to tell you which other authority could provide it.

If you need the information in a particular format, let the authority know. As far as is reasonable, the authority must provide the information in the format you prefer (for example, a summary, or an audio tape version). In deciding what is reasonable, the authority must not discriminate against you if you have a disability. If you need the information in a language other than English, the authority doesn't generally have to provide it, but it may decide to translate it for you.

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