The purpose of this policy is to provide a framework to ensure that Reading Borough Council and Brighter Futures for Children fully endorses and adheres to the principles of Freedom of Information as defined in the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Compliance with the Act will be achieved by making sure that we have an up to date Publication Scheme and that requests for information are dealt with as set out in this policy.
This Policy has been approved by the Information Governance Board and is evidence of the commitment to comply with the Freedom of Information Act.
This policy applies to all:
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gives rights of public access to information held by public authorities.
It does this in two ways:
The Act covers any recorded information that is held by a public authority in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and by UK wide public authorities based in Scotland.
The Act does not give people access to their own personal data (information about themselves) such as their health records. If a member of the public wants to see information that a public authority holds about them, they must make a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act.
Compliance with the Act is a legal duty and is overseen by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
The main principle behind freedom of information legislation is that people have a right to know about the activities of public authorities, unless there is a good reason for them not to.
A valid FOI request must:
For a request to be valid under the Act, the provisions of section 8 of the Act must be complied with. This includes a requirement for the name of the requestor to be provided. Section 8(1)(b) of FOIA requires that a request for information must include the requester’s real name.
If the requester:
then their request won’t meet the requirements of section 8(1)(b) and will technically be invalid.
Where a valid name is not provided then the request does not meet the requirements of the Act and the Council have no obligation to confirm or deny whether the information is held. The Council is also under no obligation to provide a formal refusal notice.
Under the Act, public authorities may take up to 20 working days to respond, counting the first working day after the request is received as the first day. The Council will aim to respond to all or 90% (as a minimum service standard) requests within 20 working days of receipt.
Working day means any day other than a Saturday, Sunday, or public holidays and bank holidays.
The time allowed for complying with a request starts when the organisation receives it, not when it reaches the relevant teams that the requests relates to.
The Council can issue the response up to the 20th working day to meet the requirements and cannot be held accountable for the length of time it takes to be delivered to the requestor.
Under the Act there is provision for the public authorities to claim a reasonable extension to this limit, up to an additional 20 working days, where it needs more time to consider the public interest test.
The Act also allows public authorities to apply variations to the normal 20 working day timescale in some limited circumstances.
Noted: Where a complex case is received, CRT will seek advice from the Information Governance Team. If this is likely to delay the response, the customer will be informed.
The Act has a series of exemptions that may prevent the right of access to information and which therefore may prevent release including:
Some exemptions are ‘absolute’ either in whole or part. This means that the requested information does not need to be disclosed under any circumstances.
Others are ‘qualified’ exemptions in that they are subject to a public interest test either in whole or part. This means that a public interest test will be carried out and the information will only be withheld if the public interest in not disclosing is greater than the public interest in disclosing.
Some of the ‘qualified’ exemptions are also subject to a prejudice test, which must be carried out before the information can be considered exempt. This test considers whether harm will or is likely to be caused if the information is released.
Expert opinion should always be sought from the Council’s Information Governance Team, when considering if any exemptions apply to a request.
Please refer to Appendix A for a list of exemptions.
The Procedure will be managed by the Customer Relations Team, for the purpose of the FOI Module system, CRT will be noted as The Triage Team and Response Team.
The FOI Module system will generate reminders to officers who are assigned as contributors and senior managers who are assigned as approvers.
Where an officer fails to respond or delays the response, the matter will be referred to their Assistant Director and or Executive Director.
Please refer to Appendix B for a view of the process flow.
If the requestor is unhappy with the way in which their request has been handled, the Internal Review will be received by the Customer Relations Team who will forward to the Information Governance Team to carry out the review.
A request for an internal review should be submitted within 40 days of receipt of the response by the requestor. The requestor should specify why they do not agree with the initial response and what factors they would like to be considered as part of the review.
The Information Governance Team will acknowledge receipt of the Internal Review within 3 working days of receipt.
The request for review will be dealt with within 20 working days of receipt by the Information Governance Team. If the review will take longer to conduct, the requestor will be informed as to why and when to expect a response.
If the requestor remains dissatisfied with the handling of their request or complaint, they have a right to appeal to the Information Commissioners Office.
Any person reading this Policy requiring further information or assistance is invited to contact the Data Protection Officer or the Information Governance Team – IGTeam@reading.gov.uk.
|12||Exceeding 18 hours to collate the information requested|
|21||Information already reasonably accessible|
|22||Information intended for future publications|
|30 & 31||Information relating to investigations and prejudice to law enforcement|
|35 & 36||Information relating to government policy and prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs|
|38||Endangering health and safety|
|40(1)||Personal information of the requestor|
|40(2)||Personal information of third parties|
|43||Trade secrets and prejudice to commercial interests|
FOI logged by customer via the RBC website or by Customer Relations Team (CRT) on behalf of the customer on to the FOI system.
Day 1 – An acknowledgment is generated by the system on the day the request is logged.
Day 1/2 – CRT will triage the request and where possible direct the customer to published data on the website or apply an exemption and reject the response.
Day 1/2 – CRT will send the request to the named responding officer of service or services, requesting the contribution/answers to the request by day 10.
Day 2/3 – Responding officer to review the FOI, if they need advice or clarification email CRT asap via FOI.CRT@reading.gov.uk.
If the responding officer is not the correct person to answer the question, return the FOI request to CRT or reassign the case to the officer who is best placed to respond, this must be done via the system.
Day 5/6 – Reminder sent to responding officer to complete the contribution by day 10
Day 9 – Reminder sent to responding officer to complete the contribution by day 10
Day 10 – Contribution/ answers to request to be sent to CRT
Day 11 – CRT to prepare draft response
Day 11 – CRT send draft response to AD responsible for the service
Day 13– AD to review draft response
Day 14 – AD to approve the draft response and return it to CRT via the system
Day 15 – 20 – CRT to despatch final response via email and/or letter and add to disclosure log.
Day 15 – EA Team to remind officers to provide the answers or remind the ADs to sign off the request, as appropriate.
Day 13 – AD to reject the draft response with comments and return to CRT via the system
Day 14 – CRT to review rejected draft response and request further information/corrections from the service.
Day 15-16 – Service to send revised answers to CRT via the system
Day 16 – 17 – CRT to amend the draft response and reallocate to AD via the system
Day 18 – AD to review revised draft response
Day 19 – 20 – CRT to despatch final response via email and/or letter and publish to disclosure log.