What is the Freedom of Information Act?
The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 came into effect on 1 January 2005. It applies to all information held by public authorities, regardless of when the information was recorded.
The aim of the Act is to open up the inner workings of government departments and public bodies. The general principle is that people have a right to know and should not have to demonstrate a need to know.
Specifically the Act states -
"Any person making a request for information to a public authority is entitled:
(a) to be informed in writing by the public authority whether it holds information of the description specified in the request, and
(b) if that is the case, to have that information communicated to him/ her."
The request must be dealt with within 20 working days.
The Freedom of Information Act gives everybody the right to information held by a public authority, including local government and Arms Length Management Organisations that are set up to manage a Council's housing stock (ALMOs). A1 Housing is an ALMO.
You are entitled to any information that is not personal information, or that is not exempt under the Act. Exempt information may be information that is provided in confidence or may relate to national security, law enforcement or commercial interests. Other information, such as information that is likely to be published in the future, audit information and information subject to legal privilege, may also be exempt.
You can access information that we hold by:
Checking the councils Publication Scheme which is a list of the information held by the council and A1 Housing and gives details on how to obtain the information. It is available on the council website or by contacting customer Services on 0800 590 542.
Asking us for information
You can either ask for a copy of the information you seek, the chance to inspect the records, or even to be provided with a summary of the information.
If any of the information requested is exempt you should be told which of the exemptions has been relied on to withhold the information.
There are 23 exemptions from the general rights of access.
- Certain information relating to national security, information that would prejudice international relations, commercially sensitive information, confidential information.
- Environmental Information can be accessed through the Environmental Information Regulations.
- If you wish to access information about yourself you should use your rights under the Data Protection Act. Personal data about other people cannot be released if to do so would breach the Data Protection Act. Exemptions that do not have a public interest test as known as absolute exemptions.
- If you already have reasonable access to the information you want then you should use that means. Therefore if information is available through a publication scheme the public authority can simply direct you to its scheme.
- Some of the exemptions require the public authority to consider whether it is in the public interest to withhold information.
- Consideration of the public interest may take longer than the 20 days normally allowed for responding to requests.
- In these cases the public authority must give you an estimate of when it will have reached a decision on where the public interest lies within 20 days of receiving the request.
Please give as much detail about the information as possible, as this will help us to locate it more quickly. Please also provide your name, contact address and telephone number. An application can be submitted by letter and sending it to:-
Carlton Forest House
Hundred Acre Lane,
You can also hand it in at any A1 Housing offices or email to email@example.com.
Always keep a copy of your application and of any other correspondence you send in case of query later on.
We do not normally charge to provide information to our customers, as our policy is to provide an open, transparent and accessible service. However, if your request is for information that is difficult or expensive to retrieve, such as large format plans or drawings, or where specialist reproduction is required, we may levy a charge. A maximum fee of £450.00 applies and we will inform you of any costs beforehand.
Also, if it will take more than 2 1/2 days of officer time to determine whether or not A1 Housing holds the information and to locate, retrieve and extract the information, rather than refuse your request, we may ask you for further details, so we can provide the information you are most interested in. We will always tell you if this applies to your application.
Once we have all the necessary details to locate the information we will process your application and reply to you within 20 working days.
- tell you whether or not we hold the information described in your request and, if so
- communicate that information to you, or
- explain why we cannot provide the information, e.g. because it is exempt or would take too long to prepare.
If you are unhappy with our response, for example, if you do not hear from us within 20 working days of your application, or if you think information is being kept from you that shouldn't be, or that the information given to you is wrong or incomplete, please contact our Customer Services Officers in the first instance; Tel: 0800 590542, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, who will try to resolve the problem for you. If you are still unhappy you can lodge a complaint for investigation under our complaints process by contacting our complaints officer on 0800 590542 or email email@example.com
More information on the Freedom of Information Act can be found on http://www.ico.gov.uk/for_organisations/freedom_of_information.aspx
If you have any questions that you would like to ask us about your rights under the Freedom of Information Act you should contact A1 Housing's Customer Services 0800 590 542
Alternatively, you may contact the Information Commissioner's Information Line on 0303 123 1113 or 01625 545745, or visit their website at http://www.ico.gov.uk/