Freedom of Information FAQs
This guide answers some common questions about Freedom of Information, including who can make requests and how you make them, what sorts of information we can release and what we charge. Follow the links below, which will take you to the right part of the page for the answers.
Frequently asked questions
- Who can ask for information?
- Do I need to give a reason for asking?
- How do I ask for information?
- What happens when I make a request?
- What does it cost?
- Can the Council refuse to give me the information I ask for?
- Will the Council reveal secret information?
- What happens if the Council doesn’t understand my request?
- How many requests can I make?
- How far back can I go for information?
- What is a Publication Scheme?
- Can I use the information freely?
- What format will I get the information in?
- If I am not satisfied, can I appeal?
Who can ask for information?
Anyone, regardless of your age, your nationality or where you live. You do not have to be a resident in South Norfolk to ask us for information.
Do I need to give a reason for asking?
No, but if you do we may be able to help identify all relevant information and tell you about it.
How do I ask for information?
We already provide a great deal of routine information about the Council and our services, in response to telephone calls and letters - this will continue. However, if we think that the information you are requesting is unusual, or if some time and effort would be needed to find it, you can fill in a request form, to help us to understand exactly what you want.
You must give us your name, contact details so we can reply to you, and details of your request. You can fill the request form out online or download a copy to fill in by hand and post back. See our Freedom of Information Request Form page for details.
What happens when I make a request?
We will tell you if you need to pay a fee. Provided that we can identify what you require, and you pay any fee promptly, you should receive the information in four weeks. If we are unable to provide the information (or part of it), we will explain why.
What does it cost?
We will make no charge for actually finding the information (unless it costs more than £450 to find it all) but you may have to pay for sorting it in complex cases and you will have to pay for any copying costs. If you do not pay the required fee, we will not send you the information. See our page on Charges for more information.
Can the Council refuse to give me information?
We might refuse your request, if you ask for one of the types of information which are ‘exempt’ from the right to freedom of information. For example:
- If the information is already published under our Publication Scheme, for example on our website;
- If the information which is about to be published;
- If we do not hold the information you have requested, orwe havenot retained it;
- If providing you with the information would involveus in excessive cost or effort, or would disrupt our services;
- If revealing the information is forbidden by law, or if the people who supplied the information expect us to keep it secret.
If we refuse your request, we will explain why.
Even if the information you have requested is ‘exempt’, we will still consider whether it would be in the public interest to release it.
Will the Council reveal secret information?
We cannot say we never will. Normally, we will not reveal personal information because of Data Protection law. Neither will we release information about:
- national security;
- the prevention of crime;
- court cases; legal advice; or
- information which we have been given in confidence.
In some cases, we will not even reveal whether or not we hold the information. The Freedom of Information Act does say however that where there is a clearly overriding public need, we may have to give out information originally given to us in confidence – this could include personal information.
What happens if the Council doesn't understand my request?
We will always help you to clarify what it is you are asking us for. For example, we will answer any questions and help you to fill in a request form. We will tell you if you can get similar information more cheaply or free of charge. If we do not understand your request, we will contact you to clarify what you want.
How many requests can I make?
There is no limit to the number of requests. However, we may refuse requests if we feel that they are repetitive or annoying, or would disrupt our services.
How far back can I go for information?
There is no limit – you can ask for information from many years ago. We are required by law to keep some types of information permanently, or at the least for several years. However, we do not keep all the information we receive. Some information is routinely destroyed after a few days or weeks. The length of time we keep information is set out in our Data Retention Policy.
What is a publication scheme?
It is a list of everything we publish, and any costs that may be involved if you request copies. Our current scheme can be downloaded from this website.
Can I use the information freely?
How you use the information is entirely up to you, but we, or the person who supplied the information to us, will still hold any copyright. Your use of the information is therefore limited by copyright law.
Broadly speaking, you can use it for research for non-commercial purposes and private study, and for criticism, review and news reporting. Further guidance is available on the Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) website (see the link under 'external links' below).
Defamation law (libel and slander) will also apply to the information in your hands and you should consider this before you publish the information you have received.
What format will I get the information in?
You can tell us your preference for the format we send you the information in. We can provide information in Braille, or on audiotape, and possibly in other languages.
Copies of recent documents can be provided either electronically or on paper. However, we may need to charge a large fee for providing electronic copies of older records that only exist in paper, or for translating information into other languages. See our page on Charges for more information.
We may need to arrange for you to inspect some records.
If I am not satisfied, can I appeal?
If we have made a mistake, we will try to put it right as soon as possible. If you disagree with the Council's response to your request, we will carry out an internal review. If you are still unhappy, we will explain how you can appeal to the Information Commissioner. Find out more on our page Unhappy with the way we’ve handled your request?
|Problem||What we will do|
- We did not respond;
We will try to put things right as soon as possible.
You disagree with our decision because:
- You disagree with the reasons for refusal;
We will carry out an internal review of our decision
Related pages on this website
Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI): Copyright Guidance
Guidance on Copyright Law and how you can use material which is protected by Copyright.
|contact officer/team:||Information Rights Officer|
|web:||online enquiry form|
|address:||South Norfolk Council
South Norfolk House
Norwich NR15 2XE
If you need information in large print, audio cassette, braille, translation (written or verbal) or signed interpretation, let us know when you contact us. About our translation services
Last updated on: 25 August 2009