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Freedom of Information Procedures

PROCEDURES FOR RESPONDING TO A REQUEST

Reference: Information Commissioner’s Office Guidelines

In brief

Anyone has a right to request information from a public authority. Charlcombe Parish Council has two separate duties when responding to these requests:

* to tell the applicant whether you hold any information falling within the scope of their request; and

* to provide that information.

The Parish Council normally has 20 working days to respond to a request.

For a request to be valid under the Freedom of Information Act it must be in writing, but requesters do not have to mention the Act or direct their request to a designated member of the Council. It is good practice to provide the contact details of your freedom of information officer (the Parish Clerk), but we cannot ignore or refuse a request simply because it is addressed to a different member of the Council. Any letter or email to a public authority asking for information is a request for recorded information under the Act.

What makes a request valid?

To be valid under the Act, the request must:

* be in writing. This could be a letter or email. Requests can also be made via the web, or even on social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter if your public authority uses these (not at present);

* include the requester’s real name. The Act treats all requesters alike, so we should not normally seek to verify the requester’s identity. However, we may decide to check their identity if it is clear they are using a pseudonym or if there are legitimate grounds for refusing their request and we suspect they are trying to avoid this happening, for example because their request is vexatious or repeated. A request can be made in the name of an organisation, or by one person on behalf of another, such as a solicitor on behalf of a client;

* include an address for correspondence. This need not be the person’s residential or work address – it can be any address at which we can write to them, including a postal address or email address;

* describe the information requested. The Act covers information not documents, so a requester does not have to ask for a specific document (although they may do so). They can, for example, ask about a specific topic and expect us to gather the relevant information to answer their enquiry.



 

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