Information Request policy
Information Request Handling
5.1 The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) create a legal obligation for Local and National Authorities specified within the relevant legislation to provide an over-arching right of access to all information held. This does not erase the Council’s obligations to other legislation and codes of practice or relevant exemptions/exceptions in the referenced legislation, which may prevent the Council from releasing information. The Council must however approach all requests with the assumption that information may be released, unless evidence implies otherwise and the relevant legislation allows for the information to be withheld.
5.2 This obligation is the responsibility of the Information Governance team, who can be contacted at Freedom@welhat.gov.uk.
5.3 The Council is also obligated to provide the right of access to personal information under the Data Protection Act 2018 and General Data Protection Regulations in the form of a Subject Access Request. Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council’s Data Protection policy maintains the confidentiality of personal data held or processed whilst providing accessibility to individuals to their personal information. For more information, please visit the council’s Data Protection webpage or contact the Data Protection team and the Data Protection Officer at email@example.com.
5.4 The Council has an obligation to consider all reasonable and valid information requests if the information is held or can be provided using other recorded information as building blocks. Records covered by this policy include all records (irrespective of the medium on or in which the information is carried) which are held by or on behalf of the Council.
5.5 Any request for recorded information held by the Council in any format will be treated as an information request. Requesters are not required to mention the legislations when requesting information and do not need to submit the request to the official Information Governance Team email inbox (firstname.lastname@example.org). Council staff are responsible for identifying these requests and forwarding them to the Information Governance Team if they are not able to directly respond to the request.
5.6 Information requests must be submitted in writing. Correspondence that provides all the necessary details to process a request and the full name of the requester or organisation they are working on behalf of will be accepted as valid requests. For Environmental Information Regulation requests, they may be submitted verbally as per the legislation, but Officers reserve the right to request for a written version or to create one on behalf of the requester for record keeping purposes.
5.7 Once a valid request has been received the 20-working day deadline will begin and requesters will receive an acknowledgement email within 5 working days. If clarification is and/or fees are required at any stage, the 20-working day deadline will begin when appropriate clarification/payment has been received.
5.8 The Council may extend the 20-working day deadline to 40-working days for a Freedom of Information request in circumstances where a public interest test needs to be conducted and could not be conducted within 20-working days. For Environmental Information Regulation requests, the 20-working day deadline may be extended in circumstances where the requested information is voluminous and complex. If an extension is applied, the requester will be informed within the original 20 working day deadline.
5.9 Valid requests will receive a response either containing the requested information or the reason why their requested information cannot be released with reference to the relevant legislation and, in appropriate cases, Information Commissioner’s Office case studies. In circumstances where the requested information is not held, requesters will be informed and Officers will provide contact details for an Authority who may hold the requested information, where reasonably possible. All responses will contain a copy of the Council’s Information Request Appeal Procedure.
5.10 If a requester is unhappy with the outcome or handling of their request, they may request an appeal using the Information Request Appeal Procedure within 40 working days of receiving a response. For further information, please see the Council’s Information Request Appeal Procedure.
5.11 If a requester is unhappy with the outcome or handling of their information request appeal, they have the right to appeal to the ICO. Contact details for the ICO will be provided in the requester’s acknowledgement correspondence, response correspondence, the Council’s Information Request Appeal Procedure, and correspondence detailing the outcome of the requester’s information request appeal.