The Freedom of Information Act 2000 ('the Act') was passed on 30 November 2000. The Act will be enforced by the Information Commissioner, a new post which came into being on 30 January 2001 and which combines Freedom of Information and Data Protection. Both the Freedom of Information Act and the Data Protection Act relate to information handling and her dual role will allow the Commissioner to provide an integrated and coherent approach.
What does the Act do?
The Act gives a general right of access to all types of 'recorded' information held by public authorities (including Parish Councils), sets out exemptions from that right and places a number of obligations on public authorities. Only public authorities are covered by the Act. Anyone will be able make a request for information, although the request must be made in writing, which includes emails. The request must contain details of the applicant and the information sought. The Act gives applicants two related rights:
- to be told whether the information is held by the public authority
- to receive the information (and where possible, in the manner requested, i.e. as a copy or summary, or the applicant may ask to inspect a record)
The Act places a duty on public authorities to adopt and maintain publication schemes which must be approved by the Commissioner. Such schemes must set out the types of information the authority publishes, the form in which the information is published and details of any charges. The Publication Scheme will be posted on the Parish Notice Board, and here on the Parish Council Web Site.
The Act came into force by January 2005. Public authorities have two main responsibilities under the Act. They have to produce a 'publication scheme' (effectively a guide to the information they hold which is publicly available) and they will have to deal with individual requests for information.
Responding to requests
In general, public authorities have to respond to requests promptly and in any event, within 20 working days. They may charge a fee, which will have to be calculated according to Fees Regulations. These regulations will come into force prior to January 2005. If a fee is required, the 20 working days will be extended by up to 3 months until the fee is paid.
Witheridge Publication Scheme