PUBLISHED: 10:22 26 January 2005 | UPDATED: 10:25 07 September 2010
- What is the Freedom of Information Act? The Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) was passed in 2000 with the stated aim of increasing transparency in Government. It allows public access to past and current Government documents on any subject, with certain
- What is the Freedom of Information Act?
The Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) was passed in 2000 with the stated aim of increasing transparency in Government. It allows public access to past and current Government documents on any subject, with certain exceptions, such as national security.
- Whose information does it apply to?
The Act does not only apply to central Government. It lifts the veil from local authorities and the contractors which work for them. You can now ask councils, council employees and PFI firms for paperwork on how much they are being paid, how much they are spending, and what processes they went through to reach budget decisions.
- Which organisations exactly?
Here's a short list of local organisations you might want to consider asking for information.
- How do I go about asking for the information?
Requests must be sent in writing. A phone call isn't enough, but an e-mail should be.
- How long will it take until I get it?
Authorities are required to return the information you ask for as soon as possible, and certainly within a minimum of 20 days.
- Can my request for information be turned down?
Requests can be automatically turned down if they relate to the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service, the Government Communications Headquarters, the special forces, or the National Criminal Intelligence Service. They can also be rejected on the grounds that they might threaten British interests abroad. You can appeal against a refusal if you feel your request is in the public interest.
- Who decides whether it's in the public interest?
The new information commissioner.
- This is all for free, right?
Mostly. If your request will cost less than £450 to process - including staff time spent digging out the paperwork you asked for - then the authority will do it for free. But if getting the information will cost more, they can ask you to pay.
- Has anyone put in a successful request under the Act yet?
Here's one: a local newspaper editor in the East Anglian fens sent some testing questions to his local council with mixed results.