Freedom of information
The Freedom of Information Act is part of a group of policies aimed to modernise government and ensure decision-making is more open and accountable. Select a question from the list below to jump to an answer and more information on this page.
- What is the Freedom of Information Act 2000?
- What information is available?
- How do I get the information I'm looking for?
- How many requests can I make?
- How does Surrey County Council (SCC) handle my request?
- Can I ask for information in any format?
- Is there a charge?
- What happens where a fee is payable?
- What if I'm not happy with SCC's response? How do I complain?
1. What is the Freedom of Information Act 2000?
It's an act of Parliament that:
- gives you a right of access to information held by public authorities, such as the police and your local council
- explains any situations where you won't have the right to access information
- is fully retrospective - it covers any information we already hold
- gives public authorities a number of duties.
The Information Commissioner's Office is responsible for making sure that public authorities fulfil the duties given to them by the act. The Information Commissioner's Office website gives more detailed information on the act
2. What information is available?
Any information we hold is eligible for release, but some information needs to be kept confidential. We can only refuse a request if:
- we don't have the information
- the information falls under one of the exemptions described in the act, in which case we will explain in our reply which exemption we think applies
- it will cost us more than £450 to find and extract the information you've asked for
- the request is vexatious or repeated
There is information on exemptions on the Information Commissioner's website
3. How do I get the information I am looking for?
A lot of council information is already available, and much of it is on our website. Our publication scheme should help you find the information that you need. It is a guide to the types of information that we routinely publish, the format in which the information is available and how much it will cost if there are any charges.
Any information not available through our publication scheme can be requested by filling out the Freedom of information online request form or by contacting us directly in writing (which includes emails or faxes). The request must tell us your name and a return postal or email address and must explain clearly what information you want. Please provide as full a description as possible of the information you require and make the information as specific as possible. If your request is too broad we may ask you to clarify it which means it will take longer to get the information. Also please be clear about the format you would prefer to receive the information in, for example, by e-mail or as a paper copy.
We will acknowledge your request within two to three days. If you do not receive an acknowledgment from us please contact us to check that the request has been received.
Send your request to:
Freedom of Information Officer
Legal & Democratic Services
Kingston upon Thames
Surrey, KT1 2DN
- Tel: 020 8541 7969
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Fax: 020 8541 9009
or use the Freedom of information request form
4. How many requests can I make?
There is no limit, providing each request is different. If you make repeated requests for the same information or are obviously trying to disrupt our work, we reserve the right to refuse requests. There is information on vexatious and repeated requests on the Information Commissioner's website.
5. How does SCC handle my request?
We have 20 working days in which to respond to your request. We will consider your request and reply, explaining whether or not we hold the information, and either providing the information or explaining why we have not provided it. If an exemption applies to some of the information in a file or document, we'll release as much of the rest as possible. If we don't understand your request, we will contact you to discuss what it is that you want. We will supply the information in the format you've requested, unless this is unreasonable.
We must inform you in writing if there is a fee for your request - see the answer to Question 7 which explains when we may charge you. If a fee is payable, the time limit of 20 days is put on hold until payment of the fee is received. If the fee is not paid within 3 months your request will lapse.
Some of the exemptions require the Council to consider whether it is in the public interest to withhold information, in which case we may need more time to decide whether the exemption applies. If this happens we will give you an estimate of when we will reach a decision.
There is information on the public interest test and on the exemptions on the Information Commissioner's website.
6. Can I ask for information in any format?
You can ask for the information in any format, for example, a paper or electronic copy of the documents that the information comes from, to arrange a visit to inspect the documents in person, or a summary of the information. We will then take into account the cost of supplying the information in this form when we decide whether to comply with your preference.
7. Is there a charge?
Most of the information available through the Publication Scheme is free, but if there is a charge you will need to pay this before we supply the information.
If you're asking for information not available through the scheme, many requests will be free because we will be able to quickly find the information and email or post you copies, although we may charge for the cost of sending the information to you (disbursements eg; photocopying, printing and posting) if the total of those costs amount to more than £20.
Disbursements are currently based on the following rates but we reserve the right to review these from time to time:
- A4 Black and White 10p per sheet
- A3 Black and White 20p per sheet
- A4 Colour £1 per sheet
- A3 Colour £1.50 per sheet
Scanned to pdf from hard copy
- A4 10p per sheet
Prints from a PC
- A4 Black and White 10p per page
- A3 Black and White 20p per page
- A4 Colour £1 per page
- A3 Colour £1.50 per page
- Photo quality paper £1.50 per page
- Actual cost of postage
- CDs or DVDs at 40p each
- Photographs at £5 each
We will not charge for providing the information in an alternative format if the Disability Discrimination Act applies to you if the information would otherwise be provided free.
If your request was made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and involves substantial preparation time that will cost more than £450 (about 2.5 days work) we do not have to supply the information. However we can choose to do so but if we do we can make a reasonable charge.
Similarly if your request was made under the Environmental Regulations 2004 we reserve the right to charge you for supplying that information.
If you refuse to pay a charge, we don't have to supply the information. When calculating the costs of requests we can aggregate the costs of two or more related requests if they are received within 60 working days from persons appearing to be acting in concert or as part of a campaign
8. What happens where a fee is payable?
We will notify you of the estimated fee before doing any work and will notify you if there is a significant difference between the estimate and the actual fee
We will require payment of any fee before compiling and supplying the information and if you do not pay the fee within 3 months we do not have to supply the information to you
9. What if I'm not happy with SCC's response? How do I complain?
Please write to the FOI officer to ask for a review about the way that we've responded to your request.
If you have had your case reviewed and are still not satisfied, you have a right of appeal to the Information Commissioner who is an independent person appointed to oversee freedom of information and data protection matters in the UK. The Information Commissioner will NOT consider appeals or complaints about our response unless you have first asked us to review your case.
The Information Commissioner's website gives further information on making complaints to his office.
Another organisation that may help is the Campaign for Freedom of Information.