Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) Policy


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1. Policy statement

City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council will demonstrate compliance in discharging all of its legal obligations in accordance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) 2004.

The Corporate Information Governance Team has direct responsibility for co-ordinating the maintenance, review of this policy and the supporting framework. Periodic reviews will take into account changes in legislative practices and guidance from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

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2. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to demonstrate the Council's commitment to being an organisation that is open and transparent with its decision making by:

  • Promoting openness and accountability
  • Implementing and maintaining processes to support access to information rights
  • A Publication Scheme is adopted and maintained
  • Making appropriate information available via the Publication Scheme
  • Responding to written and verbal requests for information within the statutory timescales of 20 working days or any extensions of time permitted by the relevant legislation
  • Advising and assisting applicants in accordance with its legal obligations
  • Applying exemptions, exceptions and the public interest test appropriately and consistently
  • Ensuring that any fees charged are estimated appropriately and consistently
  • Ensuring members of staff are appropriately trained and supported.

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3. Scope

This policy applies to the following:

  • Members of staff (including permanent, temporary, contractual and agency)
  • Elected Members
  • Partner agencies, 3rd party suppliers, organisations, volunteers or organisation processing information on behalf of the Council, or where the Council holds information about them.

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4. Risks

The Council recognises that there are risks associated with non-compliance with information legislation. This policy statement aims to mitigate risks such as:

  • Significant risk to the Council, partner agencies and stakeholders
  • Inappropriate disclosure of information, leading to major incidents
  • Legislative or financial penalties
  • Loss of reputation or damage to the Council's corporate image.

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5. Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations Framework

A framework of processes, procedures and training material, together with defined roles and responsibilities will be established and maintained to support the Council in meeting its compliance with the FOI Act and EIR. The framework will support:

  • Processes and procedures to ensure the efficient processing of requests to ensure they are handled within the statutory timeframe.
  • Where more time is needed to consider the public interest test the Council can claim a reasonable extension to the time limits up to an additional 20 working days.
  • In exceptional circumstances, where it is not possible to respond fully to a request for environmental information within the statutory timescale (such as complex and voluminous requests) the time period may be extended from the statutory 20 working days to 40 working days.
  • Rights of access to all types of recorded information held by the Council and with due regard to the application of exemptions under the FOI Act allowing information to be withheld such as:
    • Personal data, as specified under the Data Protection Act 2018
    • Information which would prejudice commercial interests
    • Breach of confidence which is actionable
    • Legally privileged information
    • Information intended for future publication
    • Information already reasonably accessible i.e. within the public domain
    • It will cost too much or take too much staff time (in excess of £450 or 18 hours)
    • Vexatious or repeated requests
  • Rights of access to all types of information relating to the environment held by the Council with due regard to the application of exceptions to this right under the EIR.
  • If any qualified exemptions under the FOI Act or exceptions under EIR are being applied the Council will carry out a public interest test in deciding whether the public interest in maintaining the exemption/exception outweighs the public interest in disclosing it.
  • Where an exemption/exception applies the Council under its duty to advise and assist the applicant will consider if it is able to disclose information not covered by the exemption/exception.
  • Providing applicants, where appropriate, with sufficient information to explain why all or part of a request has been refused.
  • Where requests are refused, the applicant will be advised of the decision and has a right to ask for that decision to be reviewed under the Council's Review process.
  • If the original decision is maintained and information is not disclosed, the applicant will be advised of their right of appeal to request the Information Commissioner to review the decision.

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6. Corporate Publication Scheme

The Council will maintain a corporate publication scheme in line with the Information Commissioner's requirements in order to:

  • Inform the public of what information it publishes
  • Whether the information will be available free of charge or for a fee.

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7. Responsibilities

A system for recording and monitoring of access to information requests has been implemented and will continue to be maintained. Defined roles and responsibilities will be in place to support the ongoing management, monitoring and reporting of access to information requests. Services must ensure that:

  • They action access to information requests within 20 working days unless in exceptional circumstances or where legislation permits it that an extension of time is sought
  • They provide the required information for co-ordinated requests to the Corporate Information Governance Team within the requested timescales
  • Operational areas proactively support the maintenance of the corporate publication scheme
  • Service Managers promote compliance
  • Staff are appropriately trained in responding to access to information requests.

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8. Non-compliance with this Policy

The Council views information security seriously. Members of Council staff, Elected Members, Contractors, visitors or partner organisations who act in breach of this policy may be subject to disciplinary procedures or other appropriate sanctions.

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