Access to Information
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI) came fully into effect in January 2005 and gives individuals the right to access information held by public bodies. The Act is part of the Government’s commitment to greater openness and transparency in the public sector and has had a major impact on the way public bodies manage their information. New rights under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR’s) also came into effect at the same time. These relate to any information that relates to the environment, including the elements such as air, water, soil, land and factors such as noise, emissions, discharges etc.
The Data Protection Act 1998 will continue to control access to personal information relating to living individuals, in certain circumstances. To learn more about this topic please visit our Data Protection web pages by clicking here.
When a request for information is received, the applicant is entitled to be informed by the Council whether it holds the information and, unless an exemption applies, to have the information communicated to them within 20 working days. The Council has a network of Departmental Information Guardians (DIG’s) that will provide advice and assistance in relation to FOI and EIR’s in their respective service areas.
You may find it useful to refer to the council’s Retention Policy which details how the council manages its records. To view the IWC retention policy please click here.
A request for information must be submitted in writing unless it is an EIR which can be requested verbally, although it is helpful to have it in writing to confirm the details. This includes a request by e-mail or fax. It must state the name of the applicant and an address for correspondence and describe the information required. Whilst it is not necessary for the request to mention the FOI legislation, it is helpful so that it can be dealt with promptly.
If you wish to submit your FOI request online please click on the 'Do it online tab' and select the form titled: Submit a Freedom of Information request.
The vast majority of FOIs are dealt with free of charge, however, if a fee is to be charged, the DIG will issue a fees notice showing the fee to be charged by the Council to comply with the request. Fees can be charged for disbursements only, eg. Photocopying (standard rates apply) and postage.
The DIG will consider whether any exemptions apply to all or any part of the information, seeking advice from colleagues, and the Corporate Information Unit (CIU), as appropriate.
Where it is decided to refuse the request, in whole or in part, on the reliance on any exemption and/or on the basis that the public interest would not be served, the CIU will be informed of this intention and further consider the decision. The CIU give advice on the use of any exemption.
The Isle of Wight Council receives a number of requests of a similar nature for information which relates to Business Rates. To promote openness and transparency, the council is proactively publishing information on a quarterly basis relating to:
- Accounts in Credit.
- Credits Written On.
- Full list of non-domestic properties within Isle of Wight including, Rateable Value, current reliefs, empty property relief/exemption.
- New account liabilities created.
Please click here to visit the relevant pages.
The Council is required to respond to the request promptly and to have issued its final response within 20 working days of the date of its receipt. In this respect it should be noted that, where further information is sought from the applicant in order to find the required information, the request will be paused until received.
Once the fees notice has been issued, the working days in the period beginning with the day on which the fees notice was issued and ending with the day on which the fee is received by the Council, are to be disregarded in the calculation of the 20 working day period.
Vexatious or Repeated requests
The Council will refer to the guidance issued by the Information Commissioner regarding vexatious or repeated requests. The said guidance can be found on the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO’s) website by clicking here.
The Council is not obliged to comply with the request if is estimates that the cost would exceed a specified amount. Regulations stipulate that this is set at £450 which is equivalent to 18 hours. If locating, retrieving and extracting of the information, is likely to exceed this timescale of 18 hours, we will ask you would like to modify your request to enable it to fall within the limit. If this is not possible the request can be refused.