In This Section
Freedom Of Infomation
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 gives the public a general right of access to information held by public authorities, including Council. The aim of the Act is to increase openness and accountability and we are committed to providing timely access to information held by Council in line with legislative requirements and statutory obligations.
How to request information.
Anyone can make a request for information, to do so you must:
- Submit your request in writing.
Senior Records Manager, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, PO Box 66, Lakeview Road, Craigavon, Co. Armagh BT64 1AL.
- Provide your real name. the name you are widely known and/or use regularly and which is not a pseudonym or fictitious name.
A request for information, under Section 8 (1) (b) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, must include the real name of the requester. If the requester:
- fails to provide a name;
- cannot be identified from the name provided (for example because they have only used their first name or initials); or;
- is using an obvious pseudonym
Then their request will not meet the requirements of Section 8 (1) (b) and will be invalid.
The Freedom of Information Act contains a series of exemptions that allow Council to withhold certain types of information. Information is also exempt where it is accessible to you by other means. Council may also refuse to release information where the cost of identifying, locating and collating the material concerned exceeds a limit of £450.
Where Council refuses a request for information, it will explain the reasons for the refusal.
Internal Review Process
Under the legislation you have the right to complain to Council and ask for your request to be re-considered if you are not satisfied with our response. This process is known as an internal review.
How do you make a complaint?
Requests for an internal review must be:
- made in writing;
- submitted within 40 working days from the date of your response letter;
- clearly state what it is you are not happy with and;
- state what you wish Council to review.
For example, if an exemption was used to withhold information, you may disagree with the application or outcome of the public interest test and can submit a request for Council to re-assess the application of that exemption.
It is important that you clearly state what aspect of the response you are dissatisfied with, as failure to do so will result in delays in processing your complaint.
Examples from ICO guidance:
- I disagree with the outcome of the public interest test because….
- I don’t believe the cost of providing the information would exceed the appropriate limit because…
- You have not provided me with enough support to refine my request.
- I disagree that the exemption applies because…
Click on the link for details of ICO guidance on: What to do if you’re unhappy with the response to your request | ICO.
Council’s Internal Review process is intended to be as straightforward as possible; we will try to resolve your concerns by re-examining our response and if applicable provide you with a more detailed explanation i.e., give reasons for our grounds to refuse to disclose any / all of the information requested; or clarify the exemptions we are relying on.
If you wish to exercise your right to an internal review, you should contact us within 40 working days of the date of our response to your information request.
While there is no statutory deadline for undertaking internal reviews, under the legislation, the Information Commissioner published guidance stating that internal reviews should take 20 working days or depending upon the complexity of the case no more than 40 working days.
Internal Review Process
If you ask us for an internal review of our response, we will acknowledge your request and if necessary, seek any clarification required to carry out the review.
A Senior Officer who was not involved in the original decision-making process will be appointed to review the response and any relevant material if held.
As part of the process, the appointed Senior Officer will consider whether:
- the legislation has been properly applied – in particular, whether the information requested genuinely falls within the exemption(s) cited and where relevant, whether the balance of the public interests’ favours withholding the information.
- there have been any developments since the original response, including any points made by you when making your complaint, that should alter our approach (in accordance with Regulation 11 of the EIR, Council will reconsider its decision in light of any representations made by the applicant).
- it is possible to provide any further information to you.
- there are any lessons for handling future cases.
Once the review is complete, you will receive a copy of the Senior Officer’s report informing you of the outcome of the review. If the outcome of the review concludes that the original decision is upheld, you will receive a detailed explanation giving the reasons for the determination. However, if the outcome concludes that some or all of the information can be released, the data will be included as part of the internal review response.
Following the review, if you are still dissatisfied, you have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office. However, please be aware, before the Information Commissioner will consider your complaint, you must have exhausted Council’s Internal Review process.
Role of the Information Commissioner
The Information Commissioner is the independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
Complaints about decisions made under the legislation by public authorities, including Council, can be made to the Information Commissioner, after internal review, for a decision on whether Council has dealt with the request in accordance with FOIA / EIR legislation.
In particular, the Information Commissioner will consider whether:
- an exemption has been properly applied and where relevant, whether the public interest test has been properly carried out.
- the time taken by the public authority to comply was reasonable.
- the correspondence complies with statutory requirements.
After an initial assessment of the complaint, the Information Commissioner may attempt to settle the matter informally by contacting both parties to provide their views on how the dispute can be resolved without going through the full appeal process.
If the Information Commissioner elects to undertake a full investigation, they can decide either that Council has complied with FOIA / EIR legislation or that further action is necessary to comply. The nature of this action e.g., to provide information previously withheld, will be set out in a Decision Notice which details the outcome of their investigation, or an Enforcement Notice issued when there has been a breach of the legislation and steps must be taken to ensure compliance.