The Freedom of Information Act 2000
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 gives a general right of access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities. It sets out some exemptions from that right, and imposes a number of other obligations on public authorities, including to routinely publish information via a publication scheme.
From 1 January 2009 the council have adopted the Information Commissioner’s model scheme for unitary authorities. Many enquiries we receive can be answered by referring to existing documents. A large number of these are gathered together in our online directory - Publication scheme and open data catalogue.
What the publication scheme includes
The publication scheme must include:
- What information the council publishes or intends to publish as a matter of course. The information must be grouped into classes – see below
- How and when the information will be published
- Whether the information is available free-of-charge or on payment of a fee
The purpose of the publication scheme is to ensure that a significant and growing amount of information is made available to customers and/or organisations without the need for specific requests, and to encourage a culture of openness within local government.
Publication is not restricted to printed information. For the purposes of this publication scheme, the council has interpreted it to include:
- Information on the council’s website
- Printed information including internal policies and procedures
- Electronic copies of information e.g. spreadsheets
- Magazines and Newspapers
The scheme does not refer to any other public body. All the information contained within the scheme relates to this council only.
Grouping the information into classes
The Freedom of Information Act requires local authorities who adopt the model scheme to group their information into classes.
The class groupings are as follows:
- Class 1 – Who we are and what we do
- Class 2 – What we spend and how we spend it
- Class 3 – What our promises are and how we are doing
- Class 4 – How we make decisions
- Class 5 – Our policies and procedures
- Class 6 – Lists and registers
- Class 7 – Services provided by the council
Browse or search the scheme
You can browse the publication scheme by class using the links above. Or, you can search by keyword. This will point you to a formal record of publication, with links to relevant documents. The search includes records in our open data catalogue, which has a similar purpose to the publication scheme in its commitment to openness and transparency.
Search by keyword
Information published on our website
The council’s website contains an easy-to-use search engine so it is anticipated that the customer and/or organisation will have no trouble locating the required information. The structure and content of the website has been developed to be customer facing to enable the information to be accessed as easily as possible.
Information provided on the website is available free-of-charge and may be downloaded, copied and/or printed without breaking any copyright laws, unless otherwise stated.
The website also has a number of hyperlinks to other websites providing detailed information about specific council services. It is anticipated that these websites will be used to routinely publish a wide range of documents.
Publications in other formats
The publications in other formats such as leaflets will be available free of charge via Customer Services.
Some publications, will attract a charge. Where a charge applies it will be indicated on the website. To obtain further details of the charges and the methods of payment you should contact the Customer Services department.
If you have a complaint regarding the way the council is handling your requirements regarding the Freedom of Information Act 2000, you should in the first instance make a complaint to the council. We have a formal procedure for dealing with complaints relating to this. It is unlikely that your complaint would be dealt with by the Information Commissioner unless you have exhausted the council’s own complaints procedure first.
If you remain unhappy with our handling of your complaint, you can escalate it to the Information Commissioner Office. The address and contact details for the Information Commissioner are:
Telephone: 01625 545700 (main switchboard - ask for Freedom of Information)
Fax: 01625 524510
Any comments and/or suggestions intended to improve the content of the Scheme and concerning the access arrangements are welcomed and valued.
The council has produced an enquiry form that you can use to make your request for information that is not available via the publication scheme. Forms are available at the council oiffices. Alternatively you can write directly to the service area that holds the information you require. If you are unsure which service area should deal with your enquiry send your request to:
Freedom of Information Officer
Law & Democratic Services
Swindon Borough Council
Charges for documents
If you require information that is not available through the publication scheme, there may be a charge. You will be advised of any charges before the request is completed in a fees notice. This is not a bill, but it will enable you to decide how you wish to proceed with the request. However, help and advice will be provided to try and keep the request below the statutory limit so we can provide the information free of charge.
Charges can be made for photocopying (based at 10p per copy) and postage.
The council has decided to provide the first hundred pages for free and only charge for these items should the total exceed £10 (or a 100 copies). There will be no charge below this sum, likewise for the cost of postage.
Standard charges can be made for certain documents where the council is legally entitled to do so. There will also be a standard charge for ‘commercial documents’ which have been collated and produced in a glossy format.
Any charges for documents will be published on our website and will include the costs for documents under environmental regulations.