Freedom of Information

Publication scheme

Right to know

Fee regulations

 

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Newry And Mourne District Council Freedom of information act 2000

 

 

Model Publication Scheme

As and from the 1st January 2009 all public authorities have to adopt a new Publication scheme. This replaces the previous scheme in use by Newry and Mourne District Council.

This model publication scheme has been prepared and approved by the Information Commissioner. It may be adopted without modification by any public authority without further approval and will be valid until further notice.

This publication scheme commits an authority to make information available to the public as part of its normal business activities. The information covered is included in the classes of information mentioned below, where this information is held by the authority. Additional assistance is provided to the definition of these classes in sector specific guidance manuals issued by the Information Commissioner.

The scheme commits an authority:

  • To pro actively publish or otherwise make available as a matter of routine, information, including environmental information, which is held by the authority and falls within the classifications below.
  • To specify the information which is held by the authority and falls within the classifications below.
  • To pro actively publish or otherwise make available as a matter of routine,
    information in line with the statements contained within this scheme.
  • To produce and publish the methods by which the specific information is made
    routinely available so that it can be easily identified and accessed by members of
    the public.
  • To review and update on a regular basis the information the authority makes available under this scheme.
  • To produce a schedule of any fees charged for access to information which is made proactively available.
  • To make this publication scheme available to the public.

Classes of Information

Who we are and what we do.
Organisational information, locations and contacts, constitutional and legal governance.

What we spend and how we spend it.
Financial information relating to projected and actual income and expenditure, tendering, procurement and contracts.

What our priorities are and how we are doing.
Strategy and performance information, plans, assessments, inspections and reviews.

How we make decisions.

Policy proposals and decisions. Decision making processes, internal criteria and procedures, consultations.

Our policies and procedures.
Current written protocols for delivering our functions and responsibilities.

Lists and Registers.
Information held in registers required by law and other lists and registers relating to the functions of the authority.

The Services we Offer.
Advice and guidance, booklets and leaflets, transactions and media releases. A description of the services offered.

The classes of information will not generally include:

  • Information the disclosure of which is prevented by law, or exempt under the Freedom of Information Act, or is otherwise properly considered to be protected from disclosure.
  • Information in draft form.
  • Information that is no longer readily available as it is contained in files that have been placed in archive storage, or is difficult to access for similar reasons.

The method by which information published under this scheme will be made available

The authority will indicate clearly to the public what information is covered by this scheme and how it can be obtained.

Where it is within the capability of a public authority, information will be provided on a website. Where it is impracticable to make information available on a website or when an individual does not wish to access the information by the website, a public authority will indicate how information can be obtained by other means and provide it by those means.

In exceptional circumstances some information may be available only by viewing in person. Where this manner is specified, contact details will be provided. An appointment to view the information will be arranged within a reasonable timescale.

Information will be provided in the language in which it is held or in such other language that is legally required. Where an authority is legally required to translate any information, it will do so.

Obligations under disability and discrimination legislation and any other legislation to provide information in other forms and formats will be adhered to when providing information in accordance with this scheme.

Charges which may be made for Information published under this scheme

The purpose of this scheme is to make the maximum amount of information readily available at minimum inconvenience and cost to the public. Charges made by the authority for routinely published material will be justified and transparent and kept to a minimum.

Material which is published and accessed on a website will be provided free of charge.

Charges may be made for information subject to a charging regime specified by Parliament.

Charges may be made for actual disbursements incurred such as:

  • photocopying
  • postage and packaging
  • the costs directly incurred as a result of viewing information

Charges may also be made for information provided under this scheme where they are legally authorised, they are in all the circumstances, including the general principles of the right of access to information held by public authorities, justified and are in accordance with a published schedule or schedules of fees which is readily available to the public.

If a charge is to be made, confirmation of the payment due will be given before the information is provided. Payment may be requested prior to provision of the information.

Written Requests

Information held by a public authority that is not published under this scheme can be requested in writing, when its provision will be considered in accordance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information.

Definition Document for District Councils in Northern Ireland

This guidance document gives examples of the kinds of information that the Information Commissioner would expect district councils in Northern Ireland to provide in order to meet their commitments under the model publication scheme.

To download a copy of the Definition Document Click here

To Download a copy of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (Acrobat PDF format) Click here

The right to know

 

 

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 gives members of the public the right to see information held by Newry and Mourne District Council and indeed held by most other public sector bodies.

Access to this information is subject to a number of Exemptions.

The information included in this section of the Web Site is Newry and Mourne District Councils current understanding of the FOI Act.

More detailed information is available from the Information Commissioners Web site: www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk.

Overview

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (amends parts of Data Protection Act 1998)

Environmental Information Regulations 1993/1998. New regulations from 1st January 2005

Right to know comes into effect on the 1st January 2005

Enforcement of above acts– Information Commissioner: www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk

Codes of Practice–Lord Chancellors Office: www.dca.gov.uk

Intention

To encourage a spirit of openness and transparency within the Public Sector

To increase accountability

To empower people, giving the right of access to information they want to see

How will it Work

Anyone/Anywhere can request information Organisation or Individual. No need to mention the Act by name

Applications under FOI must:

  • Be in writing–including E-Mail
  • Include name and address for correspondence
  • Applicants must describe the information they require
  • Under EIR Application can be verbal
  • Request can be received by any Employee in the Council (Written or Verbal)
  • Access is retrospective

The Right to Access

To be told as to whether information is held or not

If it is held– to have that information communicated

Refers to any recorded information in any form

If the information is not to be released then the reason why has to be made clear

Right to Appeal any decision to the Council and eventually to the Information Commissioner

Right to receive help and advice in formulating your request–Construct Letter, Refer to Citizens Advice, Community Groups

Response

Any request must be dealt with promptly

Deadline of 20 Working Days to comply with request

Fees will be charged in accordance with Regulations–not yet agreed

20 Days Period does not start until Fee is paid

Exemptions FOI

Certain Exemptions will apply when considering a Request for Information

There are15 Non-Absolute and 8 Absolute Exemptions

A request for information can also be refused if the request appears to be Erroneous or Fictitious.

Repeat requests might be refused if a reasonable time has not elapsed be requests

Requests can be refused if the information is available from another source

Information will not be released if an absolute exemption applies

Non-Absolute exemptions will be subject to a Public Interest Test. This means that before the Council considers using a Non-absolute exemption then they must carry out test.

The Public Interest Test will balance the public interest in disclosing the information against that of maintaining the exemption (Non-Disclosure)

Taking into consideration all of these exemptions must disclose at all time, where possible.

The Council must think about Disclosure first–Not Exemption

Absolute Exemptions

The following is a list of absolute exemptions:

  • Information accessible by other means.
  • Information from certain bodies relating to security matters.
  • Court records.
  • Information, which if disclosed, would amount to a breach of confidence enforceable by law.
  • Information another law forbids us to disclose.
  • Personal data protected by the Data Protection Act 1998.
  • Information subject to Parliamentary Privilege.

Information held by either House of Parliament likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs.

In the case of Absolute Exemptions the Council does not have to confirm or deny that they hold the information.

Non-Absolute Exemptions

Is the Information?

  • Intended for future publication
  • Required to protect national security
  • Related to public sector audit functions
  • Related to formation of government policy
  • Related to the environment
  • Subject to legal privilege
  • Health and safety of an individual
  • Trade secrets
  • From or to the Royal Family
  • Likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs
  • For the purpose of investigations conducted by Public Authorities

Is the Information likely to prejudice?

  • Defence
  • International relations
  • Relations between UK Administrations
  • Economic interests
  • Law enforcement
  • Health and safety of an individual

Get Acrobat Reader To Download a copy of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (Acrobat PDF format) Click here

Freedom of Information Act 2000 — Fee Calculations

 

Relevant fees are published in the Publication Scheme. These fees will be used were the information requested forms part of that publication scheme.

Where the information requested is not included in the Publication Scheme then the calculation of any fees will be in accordance with The Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulation 2004

Basic Rules

Upon receiving a request, if the cost of complying with the request will be:

  1. Below the Appropriate Limit - you cannot charge anything other than Disbursements.

  1. Over the Appropriate Limit — you don’t have to comply but if you choose to then you can only charge the Regulation 4 Costs plus Disbursements.

Appropriate Limit — Regulation 4 Costs

The appropriate limit is £450 for Local Government. Upon receiving a request you should estimate how long it is going to take to do any of the following and cost that time @ £25.00/hr:

  1. Determining weather you hold the information.

  1. Locating the information or document that may contain the information.

  1. Retrieving the information, or documents, which may contain the information.

  1. Extracting the information from a document containing it.

 

What are Disbursements?

Disbursements are the actual costs relative to the communication of the information following a request. They include:

  1. Giving effect to any preference expressed by a person making a request as to the means or form of communicating the information (info copied to CD-Rom, Floppy Disk, Inspection of records)

  1. Reproducing any document containing the information (photocopying etc).

  1. Postage and other forms of transmitting the information (Email, Fax)

The time taken by staff members to carryout this work cannot be charged

Fee Notices

In all cases a fee notice must be prepared and sent to the person requesting the information. If payment of this fee notice is not received within 3 months then the Council does not have to comply with the request. The period between the time the applicant receives the fee notice and the fee is received is to be disregarded in the calculation of the 20 Working Days to reply to the request.

Summary

In the majority of requests received by Newry and Mourne District Council only disbursements will be charged (send out fee notice). The Regulation 4 fees will not apply to the majority of requests received by Newry and Mourne District Council.

As explained above if the estimated Regulation 4 fees are greater than £450 then the Council does not have to comply with the request, however the Council is expected in these cases to give advice and assistance to the requester. The purpose of this advice and assistance is to help the requester to alter his/her request to bring the estimated fees below the £450 threshold. For example, the requester could be persuaded to reduce the time period for which the data was requested to say 1 year or the current year. The applicant should be contacted in these cases to see of the scope of the request could be changed; otherwise the Council do not have to comply with the request.

The Council will therefore not comply with any request where the estimated fee is above the appropriate limit is £450 allowed for Local Authorities.