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How to make a FOI request

The Freedom of Information Act gives you extra rights by allowing you to see or have copies of information which might not otherwise be published.

Anyone is able to make a request for information. The legislation states it has to be made in writing, for example by email or letter or if you prefer, you can come to a local authority reception area, and your request can be written down for you. It must contain all of the following:

  1. Your name
  2. The address or email address to which you wish the information to be sent
  3. An outline of the information you require. Give as much detail as possible, including dates, otherwise we may need to contact you again for clarification.

You then send the letter or email to us, details can be here.

Your request will normally be acknowledged within five working days of its receipt and in line with legislative requirements you should receive a full response within 20 working days.

If you are not satisfied with the response or the manner in which your request was dealt with, you have the right to request that we carry out an internal review.

Additional information and guidance

County services

 The following services are the responsibility of Worcestershire County Council who can help you with what you may need.

  • Social Services 
  • Youth Offenders 
  • Highways, I.e., potholes, lighting, roads   
  • Education
  • Trading Standards

Before submitting your request, please read the guidance below:

Send the request to the correct address. Do not use offensive or threatening language.

Do

Don't

Include your name, address and other contact details in the request.

Level unfounded accusations at the authority or its staff.

Clearly state that you are making your request  under the Freedom of Information Act/Environmental Information Regulations.

Make personal attacks against employees.

Be as specific as possible about the information you want rather than asking general questions. Try to include details such as dates and names whenever you can. It may also assist the authority in identifying the information if you explain the purpose behind your request.

Use FOI to reopen grievances which have already been fully addressed by the authority, or subjected to independent investigation with no evidence of wrongdoing being found.

Re-read your request to check for any wording which is unclear or open to interpretation.

Make assumptions about how the authority organises its information or tell them how to search for the information you want.

Use straightforward, polite language; avoid basing your request or question on assumptions or opinions, or mixing requests with complaints or comments. 

Bury your request in amongst lengthy correspondence on other matters or underlying complaints

Specify whether you have any preferences as to how you would like to receive the information, for example if you would prefer a paper copy or to receive an email.

Use requests as a way of ‘scoring points’ against an authority

Give the authority ample opportunity to address any previous requests you have made before submitting new ones.

Send ‘catch-all’ requests for information (such as ‘please provide me with everything you hold about ‘x’) when you aren’t sure what specific documents to ask for. If in doubt, try searching on the authority's website or enquiring whether any indexes and file lists are available. Alternatively, ask the authority for some advice and assistance in framing your request.

Stay focused on the line of enquiry you are pursuing. Don’t let your attention start to drift onto issues of minor relevance.

Submit frivolous or trivial requests; remember that processing any information request involves some cost to the public purse.

Think about whether making a request is the best way of achieving what you want. If you have an underlying complaint then it may be better to just take your complaint to the relevant ombudsman and let them investigate.

Disrupt a public authority by the sheer weight of requests or the volume of information requested. Whether you are acting alone or in concert with others, this is a clear misuse of the Act and an abuse of your ‘right to know’.

Aim to be flexible if the authority advises that it can’t meet the full request on cost grounds and asks you to narrow it down. Try to work with the organisation to produce a streamlined version of the request which still covers the core information that is most importance to you.

Deliberately ‘fish’ for information by submitting a very broad or random requests in the hope it will catch something noteworthy or otherwise useful. Requests should be directed towards obtaining information on a particular issue, rather than relying on pot luck to see if anything of interest is revealed.

 

Make repeat requests unless circumstances, or the information itself, have changed to the extent that there are justifiable grounds to ask for the information again

 

Further information on freedom of information can be found at the Information Commissioner's Office website.

If you are not satisfied with the response or the manner in which your Freedom of Information request was dealt with, you have the right to request an internal review

 

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