Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA)
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) promotes openness in government and establishes a right of access for individuals to information that we hold. Under the FOIA Allerdale Borough Council has an obligation to disclose as much information as possible to the public, subject to certain exemptions.
Making a request under Freedom of Information
All requests for information need to be in writing (this includes email) and must include:
- your name,
- a correspondence address
- a clear description of the information you are requesting
How to make a Freedom of Information request
To make a request you can:
- email us at email@example.com
- Use our online form
- send it by post addressed to our Information Governance Officer at our Workington office.
Once received we'll acknowledge your request and have 20 working days to respond. We can extend this time-limit by a reasonable period if the request is complicated and we need more time to consider the public-interest test on some of the exemptions.
Why we might not disclose some information
We may not hold the information you request as it may be held by some other organisation.
We may also have deleted information in accordance with our Retention Policy .
There are exemptions on disclosure. Remember that an answer to an FOI request is made to the wider public, not just the person who has made the request. Some of the more commonly used exemptions relate to:
- Personal information, where disclosure of the information requested would breach the Data Protection Act.
- Information provided to us in confidence, such as a complaint about noise, where the information may identify the complainant.
- Information which if disclosed, would prejudice our enforcement investigations.
- Information which if disclosed would put our staff at risk.
- Information which if disclosed would prejudice the commercial interests of the Council or its partners.
However, each request will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Full details of the exemptions can be found from the Information Commissioner's Office.
What if I want to appeal against a decision made under Freedom of Information
If you are not happy with how your request has been handled or how an exemption has been used, you can appeal this decision. To do so contact the Information Governance Officer within two months of receiving your reply from us. We shall then reconsider your request and issue a decision accordingly. The appeals process follows that of our complaints procedure.
If you remain disatisfied, you can contact the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to consider your request. The ICO will not consider appeals unless our appeal procedure has been exhausted.
Is there a charge for information?
In most cases, no. However, there are a few items in the Publication Scheme that do incur a charge. Each of these charges is listed in the guide. We may also charge for disbursement costs such as copying.
If the amount of information requested is particularly complicated or takes excessive staff hours to collect or collate, a charge could incur. If the request will cost more than £450 to locate, retrieve and extract the information then we can refuse to comply with your request, though we shall also advise you on how you may be able to refine your request. When considering the costs we charge staff time at £25 an hour. If any charges do apply, we will inform you as soon as possible. Allerdale Borough Council will strive to make as much information available to the public as possible through both the Publication Scheme and through any individual requests we receive.
Full details on charges in relation to FOI requests can be found in our FOI Policy which is at the bottom of this page.
Publication Scheme and the Transparency Agenda
The Publication Scheme sets out the information that the authority holds that we proactively make available to the public, and includes a further guide to the availability of information.
What have we disclosed in the past?
Are you curious about what has been released so far under the Freedom of Information Act? More details on this and how we have responded can be found on our disclosure log page.
If you request what can be classed as environmental information then it will be considered under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR). Whilst we are expected to make environmental information proactively available, there are certain exceptions to disclosure.
The regulations are similar to the Freedom of Information Act, however some of the main differences are:
- A request can be made verbally. However, a written request may help us be sure we get all the right information from you.
- The EIRs allow for a 20 working-day extension to consider a large request, whereas the FOIA only allows an extension to consider the public interest test.
- The EIRs have a different set of exceptions with regard to the non-disclosure of information, though many share elements with the FOIA.
- Under the EIRs we can make a reasonable charge for providing the information.
You do not need to worry about which regime we will consider your request. If you are unsure make it under the one you think is correct, and we shall reply according to our interpretation of the request.
Further information on the EIRs is available from the ICO.
Tips on making a request under the Freedom of Information Act
- Make your request in writing (including fax, email), and include your name and contact details. The Freedom of Information Act the request is considered "applicant blind", so we do not take who is making the request into account. And we are not obliged to ask why you are making a request. Moreover, we have to consider that disclosure of the information is to the wider public, not just to the applicant, and hence the implications of this.
- Be as clear and precise with your request as possible. Include specific dates where necessary. This will avoid us having to ask for clarification which could slow the processing of your request. It will also avoid the possibility that your enquiry will not exceed the statutory limit obliging us to comply.
- Think about what you want to ask for. Some questions can be answered with a "yes" or "no", whilst you may want specific details.
- Make sure Allerdale Borough Council is responsible for the service your question relates to. Cumbria County Council are responsible for services such as schools, libraries, highways and children and adult social services. Therefore requests should be made to them at firstname.lastname@example.org .
- Consider whether your request would include personal information. We are obliged to protect the personal information of individuals. Therefore if complying with your request would mean we would disclose information which could identify individuals, we may refuse your request under Section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act. If, for instance, you want the details of how many Council Tax accounts we have, do not ask for a list of those accounts.
Your privacy when making a request
Details of your request will be kept for up to three years, in order to take account for any appeal procedures. Where possible we shall ensure the information we hold is anonymous when it is used for statistical purposes aimed at improving our services. You have a right to view the details we hold on you by contacting the Information and Records Officer. Your details may be shared with those who are involved in answering your request, though they will not be made public.