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Freedom of Information Act

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT- model publication scheme

The basics
The Freedom of Information Act deals with access to official information and gives individuals or organisations the right to request information from any public authority.

Your right to know
The Freedom of Information Act gives you the right to request information held by public authorities, companies wholly owned by public authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and non-devolved public bodies in Scotland.

Your legal obligations
All public authorities and companies wholly owned by public authorities have obligations under the Freedom of Information Act. When responding to requests, they have to follow a number of set procedures.

The ICO publishes detailed guidance notes that provide organisations and individuals with all the information they need to know about the Freedom of Information Act.

Decision notices
A Decision Notice outlines the ICO's final assessment, following a complaint, as to whether or not a public authority has complied with the Act. These are catalogued and available online.

Enforcement action will be taken against public authorities that repeatedly fail to meet their responsibilities under the act.

Model publication scheme 2009
A publication scheme is a commitment by a public authority to make certain information available, and a guide to how that information can be obtained.

The publication scheme sets out the kinds of information that a public authority should make routinely available. The information should be easy for the authority and any individual to find and use.

Public authorities must adopt a publication scheme approved by the Information Commissioner. To reduce duplication and bureaucracy and to ensure consistency in the release of information, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has developed a model publication scheme that any public authority can use.

The model scheme classifies information at a high level and broadly states the way authorities can provide information and what they can charge for.

The model specifies seven classes of information. To maximise the routine release of information the categories have been set at a high level. Most information that a public authority holds falls into the seven classes. However, this does not mean the authority must routinely release all the information covered by the broad definitions in the definition document for that sector. The scheme sets out the circumstances under which an authority would not be required to make information routinely available.

These are when:

• the information is not held;
• the information is exempt from disclosure, for instance personal data or commercial interest; or
• the authority cannot easily access the information.
Routinely published information should be available as part of an authority’s normal business. So the information should be easy to access through a website or be easily and quickly sent out by a member of the authority’s staff.

In operating the scheme, an authority must provide a ‘guide to information’, giving details of:

• the information it will routinely make available;
• how the information can be accessed; and
• whether or not a charge will be made for it

A copy of the model publication scheme formally adopted by Allington Parish Council on 2 December 2008 is available below