Freedom Of Information

Introduction

((A pdf version of this policy is available for download)

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 provides public access to 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.

St Erth Parish Council has adopted the Model Publication Scheme.

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.

Principles

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 Council must justify refusing them information;
  • the Council must treat all requests for information 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 they are. The Council treats all requesters equally, whether they are journalists, local residents, public authority employees or foreign researchers; and
  • because the Council treats all requesters equally, the Council will only disclose information under the Act if it would disclose it to anyone else who asked. In other words, the Council considers any information it releases under the Act as if it were being released to the world at large.

Information covered

The Act covers all recorded information held by a public authority. It is not limited to official documents and it covers, for example, drafts, emails, notes, recordings of telephone conversations and CCTV recordings. Nor is it limited to information the Council creates, so it also covers, for example, letters the Council receives from members of the public, although there may be a good reason not to release them.

Who can make a request under the Act

Anyone can make a freedom of information request – they do not have to be UK citizens or resident in the UK. Freedom of information requests can also be made by organisations, for example a newspaper, a campaign group or a company. Employees of a public authority can make requests to their own employer, although good internal communications and staff relations will normally avoid the need for this.

Requesters should direct their requests for information to the public authority they think will hold the information. The public authority that receives the request is responsible for responding.Requests should not be sent to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), except where the requester wants information the ICO holds.

What happens if you make a request?

The Council has two separate duties when responding to a request:

1. tell the applicant whether it holds any information falling within the scope of their request; and
2. to provide that information.
The Council will normally to respond to a request within 20 working days and requests under the Act or other requests for information should be directed to:

The Clerk to St Erth Parish Council
The Vestry Rooms
25 Fore Street
St Erth
Cornwall
TR27 6HT 01736 757575
clerk@sterth-pc.gov.uk

Cost

Class 1 – Who we are and what we do

(Organisational information, structures, locations and contacts. This will be current information only)

  • Website – free
  • Hard Copy – 10p/sheet
  • Contact details for Parish Clerk and Councillors (named contacts with telephone number and email address)
  • Website – free
  • Hard Copy – 10p/sheet

Class 2 – What we spend and how we spend it

  • (Financial information relating to projected and actual income and expenditure, procurement, contracts and financial audit. Current and previous financial year)
  • Annual return form and report by auditor
  • Website – free
  • Hard Copy – 10p/sheetFinalised budget and Precept
  • Website – free
  • Hard Copy – 10p/sheet
  • Standing Orders and Financial Regulations Website – free
  • Hard Copy – £5
  • Grants given and received
  • Hard Copy – 10p/sheet
  • List of current contracts awarded and value of contract Hard copy 10p/sheet
  • Members’ allowances and expenses
  • Hard Copy – 10p/sheet

Class 3 – What our priorities are and how we are doing

(Strategies, plans, performance indicators, audits, inspections, reviews, Annual Report. Current and previous year)

  • Website – free
  • Hard Copy – 10p/sheet

Class 4 – How we make decisions

(Decision making processes/non-confidential reports and records of decisions/minutes. Current and previous council year)
Timetable of meetings (Council, committee and sub-committee meetings)

  • Website – free
  • Hard Copy – 10p/sheet
  • Agendas of meetings (as above)
  • Website – free
  • Hard Copy – 10p/sheet
  • Minutes of meetings (as above) – excluding information that is properly regarded as private to the meeting
  • Website – free
  • Hard Copy – 10p/sheet
  • Reports presented to council meetings – excluding information that is properly regarded as private to the meeting
  • Website – free
  • Hard Copy – 10p/sheet
  • Responses to consultation papers
  • Website – free
  • Hard Copy – 10p/sheet
  • Responses to planning applications
  • Website –free
  • Hard Copy – 10p/sheet

Class 5 – Our policies and procedures

(Current written protocols, policies and procedures for delivering our services and responsibilities. Current information only)
Policies and procedures for the conduct of council business:

  • Standing orders
  • Website – free
  • Hard copy – £5
  • Committee and sub-committee terms of reference
  • Website – free
  • Hard copy – 10p/sheet
  • Delegated authority (see Standing Orders and Financial Regulations) Code of Conduct
  • Website – free
  • Hard Copy – 10p/sheet
  • Policy statements
  • Website – free
  • Hard Copy – 10p/sheet
  • Data protection policies
  • Website – free
  • Hard Copy – 10p/sheet
  • Charges
  • Website – free
  • Hard Copy – 10p/sheet

Class 6 – Lists and Registers

Currently maintained lists and registers only – some information may only be available by inspection and any publicly available register or list, if applicable.

  • Asset Register
  • Hard Copy 10p/sheet
  • Register of Members’ Interests Hard Copy 10p/sheet
  • Register of gifts and hospitality N/A

Class 7 – The services we offer

Information about the services we offer, including leaflets, guidance and newsletters produced for the public and businesses. Current information only and some information may only be available by inspection)

  • Allotments
  • Website – free
  • Hard Copy – 10p/sheet
  • Burial grounds and closed churchyards
  • Website – free
  • Hard copy – 10p/sheet
  • Community centres and village halls N/A
  • Parks, playing fields and recreational facilities Website – free
  • Hard Copy – 10p/sheet
  • Seating, litter bins, clocks, memorials and lighting Website – free
  • Hard Copy – 10p/sheet
  • Public conveniences (see budget)
  • Agency agreements
  • Website – free
  • Hard Copy – 10p/sheet
  • A summary of services for which the council is entitled to recover a fee, together with those fees (e.g. burial fees)
  • Website – free
    Hard Copy – 10p/sheet

Contact details:

Clerk to the Council (as above)

Schedule Of Charges

This describes how the charges have been arrived at and should be published as part of the guide.

Type Of Charge Description Basis Of Charge

  • Disbursement cost
  • Photocopying @ 10p per sheet (black & white) Actual cost *
  • Postage @ Royal Mail standard 2nd class
    Actual cost*
  • Statutory Fee In accordance with the relevant legislation as determined by statute Other
    * the actual cost incurred by the public authority

St Erth Parish Council FOI Policy reviewed February 2017