Tregony with Cuby Parish Council is a public body and, as such, is subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
The Act provides public access to information held by public authorities in two ways:
- public authorities are obliged to publish certain information about their activities; and
- members of the public are entitled to request information from public authorities.
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.
Recorded information includes printed documents, computer files, letters, emails, photographs, and sound or video recordings.
The Act does not give people access to their own personal data (information about themselves) such as their health records or credit reference file. If a member of the public wants to see information that a public authority holds about them, they should make a data protection subject access request.
The main principle behind freedom of information legislation is that people have a right to know about the activities of public authorities, unless there is a good reason for them not to. This is sometimes described as a presumption or assumption in favour of disclosure. The Act is also sometimes described as purpose and applicant blind.
This means that:
- everybody has a right to access official information. Disclosure of information should be the default – in other words, information should be kept private only when there is a good reason and it is permitted by the Act;
- an applicant (requester) does not need to give a reason for wanting the information. On the contrary, the parish council must justify refusing them information;
- all requests for information must be treated equally, except under some circumstances relating to vexatious requests and personal data. The information someone can get under the Act should not be affected by who the requester is. All requesters should be treated equally, whether they are journalists, local residents, public authority employees, or foreign researchers; and
- because all requesters should be treated equally, information under the Act should only be disclosed if the council would disclose it to anyone else who asked. In other words, any information released under the Act should be treated as if it were being released to the world at large.
This does not prevent the council from voluntarily giving information to certain people outside the provisions of the Act.
the Freedom of Information Act contains a number of exemptions that allow a public body to withhold information from a requester.
Some exemptions relate to a particular type of information, for instance, information relating to government policy. Other exemptions are based on the harm that would arise or would be likely arise from disclosure, for example, if disclosure would be likely to prejudice a criminal investigation or prejudice someone’s commercial interests.
Details on the categories of exemption and all matters relating to the FOI Act are on the website of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
From the parish council point of view, the most likely category of exemptions that might apply are commercial interests of, for example, businesses who are tendering for work with the parish council, or personal information about individuals.
Anyone who wishes to make an FOI request to Tregony with Cuby Parish Council should email the clerk. However, we would always suggest that an informal request for the information required will often produce the answer that you require without the need for a formal FOI request.