Freedom of Information - Advice
From January 2005, the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) has given every citizen the right to request information from public sector organisations, including Government, local authorities, the National Health Service, Schools, the Police and the Fire Service. You can use this and other legislation to request information from Manchester City Council.
Our Publication Scheme
The Council already makes a great deal of information available, by publishing it or allowing people to inspect it.
Our Publication Scheme provides a guide to the current information we routinely publish, or intend to publish. It aims to help you understand what information is already available, how to find/access it and whether or not a charge applies.
If you cannot find a reference to the information you want in our Publication Scheme (pdf) or by searching our website, you will need to ask us for it.
How do I make a written request
Once you have checked the information is not already available through our Publication Scheme, you will need to put your request in writing so we have a permanent record of it.
Your request will be dealt with under FoIA or the access rights applicable under other legislation, such as the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. (Information about the right of subject access under the Data Protection Act may be found on our data protection web pages).
You may send your request by letter, fax, email to firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively, you may prefer to fill in an on line form or Download and print out a form (pdf) and send it back to us.
If you have any difficulty in completing the form, please contact the Democratic Services Legal Team, Legal Services, PO Box 532, Town Hall, Manchester M60 2LA.
Will I be charged?
We only charge for the provision of information where this is specifically allowed for under legislation or, to recover the costs of any photocopying, printing postage or other costs incurred in supplying the information where these costs exceed £5.
Most information requests will generally be processed free of charge. We do not charge for officer time spent answering your request, but we are not obliged to provide you with information if it would involve more than 18 hours work. In such cases we will contact you and suggest an alternative. If the information is already publicly available we will inform you of this and advise whether any fees and/or charges apply.
You can download the Council's Fees and Charges policy (pdf) from this link.
How long will it take to get the information?
We will confirm receipt of your request and ask for clarification if we are unclear about what you want.
Once we have identified what information we hold, we will usually respond to your request within 20 working days.
We will either provide the information you have asked for or let you know if we
- do not hold the information you want, or,
- if it is already publicly available where/who you can obtain it from, or,
- if any fee/charge applies, or
- if some or all of the information is exempt from disclosure and why
If we plan to charge a fee for answering your request, we will tell you what the fee will be before we provide information. You will have up to three months to pay the fee and once this is received in cleared funds, the information will be supplied to you.
If some or all of the information you have requested is exempt it may take us longer than 20 working days to assess where the public interest lies but we will usually tell you how long we think this may take, within 20 working days.
Can I have all the information I ask for?
We will try to make as much information available as possible. However, we may sometimes have a good reason for withholding information.
The Act contains a number of exemptions. Some of these are 'absolute'. If the information falls into one of these categories we are not obliged to release it. Others are 'qualified'. If the information falls into one of these categories we have to decide whether the public interest lies in releasing or withholding the information.
There are various reasons why information may be withheld. Some examples are where:
- the information is available somewhere else (in another place, or under other legislation)
- we intend to publish the information in the future
- the law says we must not release it, or
- disclosure would
- breach confidentiality or contravene the Data Protection Act, or
- harm the effective conduct of public affairs; the economy; commercial interests; law enforcement and investigations; health & safety; the environment; national security or defence
If we decide to withhold information, we will tell you why and explain your rights of appeal.
Will information be communicated in the format I require?
We will endeavour to communicate the information to you in the format you have requested e.g. paper or electronic copy.
Can I re-use the information you supply?
The Freedom of Information Act gives you the right to access information but it does not give you the right to make any further use of that information without permission. Some of the information we give you may be covered by our copyright, and some of it may be covered by other people's copyright. The information may only be used for your own personal purposes.
If you copy, publish or re-use this information without express permission you will be breaching copyright.
We reserve the right to publish a copy of the information we give you under FoIA on our website or by any other means.
Our promise on providing information
- Explain your information rights under the FoIA and other legislation
- Provide you with advice and assistance
- Help you put your request in writing by supplying an Information Request Form, completing it on your behalf if necessary or advising you of other agencies who may be able to help you
- Quickly contact you for further clarification/information if your written request is not clear or if we cannot identify or locate the information you are seeking
- Try to provide the information in the way that best suits you
- Advise you if a fee is payable and if so tell you how much, or help you to modify your request if necessary
- Advise you if some or all of the information you seek is held by another public body and provide you with their contact details
- Explain our reasons if we decide not to meet the terms of your request and the appeal and complaint process available to you
- Tell you whether or not we hold the information unless doing this would in itself release exempt information
What if I'm not satisfied with the response?
If you disagree with any exemptions applied to your request for information under FoIA, or are not satisfied with how we have handled your request, you are entitled to make a complaint. You will be advised how to do this at the time your request is answered. Details of the Information Rights Complaint Procedure (pdf) are available to download.
If you are still not satisfied with the outcome having gone through the Council's internal complaints procedure then you can appeal to the independent Information Commissioner for a decision.
Contacting the Information Commissioner
If you contact the Information Commissioner first it is likely that your complaint will be passed back to the Council to give us the opportunity to respond.
The Information Commissioner may be contacted at:
Tel: 01625 545700, Fax: 01625 524510
Note: The above advice does not cover the right of subject access under the Data Protection Act. If you are seeking personal information about yourself, you already have the right of access under the Data Protection Act and can find out how to exercise this right by checking our Data Protection web pages.