Freedom of Information Requests (FOI)
Giving you the upper hand
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 provides ready access to the public to most of the information held by public authorities.
It does this in two ways:
1. public authorities are obliged to publish certain information about their activities; and
2. members of the public are entitled to request information from public authorities.
This is because Public authorities spend money collected from taxpayers and make decisions that can significantly affect many people’s lives. Access to the information they hold as a result of providing that public service helps the public make public authorities accountable for their actions and allows public debate to be better informed and more productive.
The Act covers any recorded information that is held by a public authority in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and by UK-wide public authorities based in Scotland. (Information held by Scottish public authorities is covered by Scotland’s own Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002).
Public authorities include government departments, local authorities, the NHS, state schools and police forces.
However, the Act does not necessarily cover every organisation that receives public money. For example, it does not cover some charities that receive grants and certain private sector organisations that perform public functions.
The public may be entitled to access lots of different information covering how the Authority operates, sometimes surprisingly sensitive information too, including recorded information in printed documents, computer files, letters, emails, photographs, and sound or video recordings.