Questions and Answers
What is the Freedom of Information Act 2000?
As well as providing greater openness, it also provides a general right of access to information held by public bodies, including local authorities, police, schools, NHS Bodies etc. Although it was introduced in 2000, it is fully retrospective and covers any information held by the Council.
The Information Commissioner's Office is responsible for making sure public bodies fulfil their duties given them by the Act. More details can be found at www.ico.org.uk.
Who can use the Act?
Anyone is entitled to make a request for information, and there is no need to state the reason for applying, though it can be helpful in providing the response.
What sort of information is available?
You can apply for access to any information recorded in any form, including documents, held by the Council, but some information needs to be kept confidential.
What is the Publication Scheme?
The Publication Scheme is a guide to the types of information regularly publishes to the members of the public. If it is not available through the website it will tell you how to obtain the information. If you do not have access to a computer you can obtain the information from the Information Governance Manager.
Is there a charge for the information?
Most of the information available through the Publication Scheme is free, but if there is a charge you will need to pay this before we supply the information.
What can I do if the information is not on the Publication Scheme?
If the information you want is not in the Publication Scheme you can write to the Council. You can either use the postal address (Information Governance Manager, Surrey Heath Borough Council, Surrey Heath House, Knoll Road, Camberley, Surrey, GU15 3HD), or email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. The request must tell us your name and a return postal or email address, give as much detail as possible about what information you want and make it as specific as possible. You do not have to explain why you want the information but occasionally it may help us answer the request. Also be clear about the format you would prefer to receive the information in e.g. electronic format or paper.
What happens if Surrey Heath Borough Council doesn't understand what information I want?
If we do not understand your question fully, we will contact you to ask for further information or clarification. If you do not supply us with the extra information we do not have to give you the information you requested. Under the FOI Act we have a duty to provide advice and assistance, where reasonable, to applicants in framing their requests.
When can a request be refused?
We can refuse a request
- if we do not hold the information
- the information falls under one of the exemptions described in the Act. We will explain when we reply to you which exemptions we think apply. This can include "neither confirming nor denying" we hold the information. There is information on the Information Commissioners website about the exemptions
- if the FOI request will cost us £450 (18 hours work) to find and extract the information you asked for, though we will ask you if you can refine your request so that we can deal with it.
- the request is vexatious or repeated
What happens if I have trouble writing?
Under the FOI Act we have a duty to provide advice and assistance, where reasonable, to applicants in framing their requests. If you have problems writing requests please contact the Information Governance Manager on 01276 707632 and she will help you write the request.
How many requests can I make?
There is no limit, providing each request is different. If you make repeated requests for the same information within a short space of time, we have the right to refuse the information. It can either be classed as repeated or vexatious. Further information on these types of request can be found on the Information Commissioners website:
- Vexatious requests on the Information Commissioners website
- Repeat requests on the Information Commissioners website
What are my rights if the Council refuses to disclose information I have requested?
Surrey Heath Borough Council has a procedure for dealing with complaints from applicants who consider that their request has not been properly handled, or who are otherwise dissatisfied with the outcome of the consideration of the request. In your response there will be details about who to contact to ask for an internal review of your request. If you are not happy with the internal review you can contact the Information Commissioner to ask for a further review. Their contact details are Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF. www.ico.org.uk
How can I obtain information about myself?
The Data Protection Act 1998 is the legislation for the regulation of personal information. There is a separate section for the Data Protection Act.
Does the Scheme cover Personal Information?
The scheme does not cover personal information held by the Council. Access to such information is governed by the Data Protection Act 1998. Requests for such information will be co-ordinated by the Council's Data Protection Officer.
Personal information relating to the applicant is exempt, in most cases, from the Freedom of Information Act.