Freedom of Information Requests

Compliance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 is the legal responsibility of local authorities and other public organisations. It is part of a wider group of national policies which aim to modernise government and show people how it is working on their behalf. Since January 2005 people have had a right to know what decisions are taken on their behalf, and how services are run. They can ask to see not only printed leaflets and other publications, but also any background files and other records relating to the business of the organisation, unless statutory exemptions apply.

  • Harmston Parish Council has produced and publicised a Publication Scheme, which makes it clear what information can already be accessed. The Publication Scheme outlines any charges which may be made in supplying any information.
  • Any information which is not part of the Publication Scheme can be requested under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
  • The Council has delegated responsibility for dealing with information to the Clerk to the Council.
  • A request for information must be made by letter or e-mail and should be sent to the Clerk. The request must include a contact name, an address for correspondence and state clearly what information is required.
  • The Clerk will first identify whether the requested data is held by the Council. If not, the applicant will be notified accordingly.
  • If information is held, and is not subject to any exemption, the Clerk will supply it to the applicant within 20 working days unless there is a fee to pay, or further clarification is required.
  • If the request for information is unclear, the Clerk to the Council will contact the applicant to clarify what data is being sought. In this case the 20 working day period will commence on receipt of the additional information.
  • If the information is not held by the Council, but the Council is aware of another public body which may hold the information, the applicant will be given details of which public authority is believed to hold the information.
  • Where information cannot be provided, a refusal notice will be issued explaining which exemption applies, and advising of any right to appeal.
  • Where any complaint is received about the processing of any request for information, this will be referred on to full Council for attention. After the Council’s internal review procedure has been exhausted, further reviews about the same information request must be directed to the Information Commissioner for adjudication. at Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF or
  • Where information is subject to a ‘qualified exemption’ (See Appendix 1) under the FOI Act, there may be an extension to the 20 day period whilst further consideration is given to applying the public interest test, to determine whether any information should be withheld or disclosed.
  • Where any correspondence is received from the Information Commissioner’s Office in relation to any Freedom of Information matter, this will be referred on to full Council for attention.
  • Additional Information.

Role of the Information Commissioner (ICO) and Information Tribunal

The Information Commissioner’s Office is the enforcement body for FOI and is responsible for arbitrating on information requests that have not been resolved to the requester’s satisfaction after the Council’s appeal process has been completed. The Information Tribunal provides the avenue of appeals against decisions made by the ICO. The Tribunal has the power to request and inspect all documentation pursuant of the initial request to enable an
independent disclosure decision to be made. The Information Tribunal has the authority to use the courts to enforce its disclosure decisions.


Appendix 1

FOI Exemptions

Absolute Exemptions
Absolute exemptions mean the information does not need to be provided; there is no need for any further consideration.

S. 21 The information is reasonably accessible by other means

This includes items that are in the Council’s Publication Scheme or published on the website.

S. 23 Information supplied, or relating to, bodies dealing with security matters

This exemption is unlikely to be used by the Council.

S. 32 Court records

Information specifically held or produced as part of legal proceedings.

S. 34 Parliamentary privilege

This exemption relates to central government.

S. 40 Personal information

If a person making the request is seeking information about themselves, that person has a right to make a subject access request under the Data Protection Act, therefore the information within an FOI context should be refused. If the information requested contains third party personal information, the exemption should be considered in line with the Data Protection Act and may give rise to the public interest test.

S. 41 Information provided in confidence

For this exemption to apply, the information must have been obtained from outside the Council and to disclose that information would lead to a breach of confidence and be actionable in court.

S. 44 Disclosure of information is prohibited by an enactment or would constitute contempt of court

If some other law requires that the information should not be released, that law takes precedence. Further, if the release of information could be contempt of court, the information should not be released.

Qualified Exemptions (Public Interest Test)

The following qualified exemptions are subject to the ‘public interest’ test. To determine if the exemption applies, the following tests should be considered:

1. The information must fall within a specific category of the exemption relied upon and

2. Information may be withheld only if in all the circumstances the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information (public interest test). If the above tests are satisfied the information does not need to be released.

S. 22 Information intended for future publication

• This includes: Information held by the Council with the intent to publish, on the date the request is made
• Information held by a third party with the intention to publish at some future, date not yet specified
• Information not yet earmarked for publication, but likely to be done at a future date
• Drafts are not generally exempt and this should not be used as a blanket refusal.

S. 24 National Security

This exemption is unlikely to be used by the Council.

S. 30 Investigations and proceedings by public authorities

Information obtained or recorded during the course of investigations that the Council has a duty to conduct, or the instigating of criminal or civil proceedings by the Council is exempt. Also, any information relating to a confidential source is exempt.

S. 35 Formulation of government policy

Information is exempt if it relates to formulation or development of government policy, Ministerial communications, requests for advice and any advice given by Law Officers, and the operation of any ministerial office. Some of these classes are specifically for central government, but the exemption is not explicitly stated as central government only. Once a decision is made, background papers are no longer exempt.

S. 36 Prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs

This exemption allows for frankness and candour in discussions. However, there may be occasions where the right to know takes priority (partly absolute).

S. 37 Communications with Her Majesty and honours lists

This also includes Royal family and Royal household.

S. 38 Health and Safety

No information should be released if it would endanger the safety, or physical or mental health of any individual.

S. 39 Environmental Information

Any information related to the Environment should be dealt with under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

S. 42 Legal professional privilege

General right to keep legal advice privileged.

Qualified Exemptions (Prejudice Test)

The remaining exemptions are qualified and subject to the Prejudice Test. Prior to considering the public interest test (as above), it should be established whether the release of the information might cause prejudice to individuals or processes. If the prejudice test and the public interest test indicate the information should not be disclosed, the request may be refused.

S. 26 Defence

Not relevant to the Council.

S. 27 International relations

No information should be released if it would cause prejudice to the United Kingdom relations with any other state, its interests abroad, or relates to information obtained from another state or international organisation.

S. 28 Relations within the UK

No information should be released if it would cause prejudice between the United Kingdom government, and the devolved assemblies.

S. 29 The Economy

No release of information if it would prejudice the financial interests of the United Kingdom, or any administration in the United Kingdom.

S. 31 Law Enforcement

Only exempt if the release of information would prejudice an investigation or legal proceedings.

S. 33 Audit Functions

Information is only exempt prior to the final report being prepared, if the audit function is a statutory duty to audit another public authority. Internal audits are not covered by this exemption.

S. 40 Personal Information

See absolute exemptions above. This exemption also applies to third party information covered by the Data Protection Act.

S. 43 Commercial Interests

Information may be exempt if it constitutes a trade secret or disclosure may prejudice commercial interest of any person, including the Council.


Created: 14th September 2003

Adopted: 8th September 2014

Updated: 19th March 2024

Approved: 19th March 2024