This is an HTML version of an attachment to the Freedom of Information request 'Procedures and Staff Guide to FOI Act and EIR'.



 
 
 
The London Borough Of Hillingdon and the 
Freedom of Information Act 2000: 
 
 
copyright 
Contents 
 
Introduction  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Pg1 
 
Information 
For 
Staff 
      Pg3 
London 
•  How Does the Freedom of Information Act work? 
•  Who has a right of access? 
•  Do they have to justify why they need access? 
•  How does an individual make a request for information under the Act? 
Borough 
•  How do we respond to a Request? 
•  Can we charge for the Information? 
•  How long do we have to respond to a request? 
•  Are there circumstances where we can refuse a request for information? 
•  How do we refuse a request? 
of 
•  Who has responsibility within the London Borough of Hillingdon for Freedom 
Hillingdon
of Information? 
 
Policy 
on 
handling 
Requests 
     Pg6 
•  Advice and Assistance 
•  Charging for Requests 
•  Handling requests that appear as part of an Organised Campaign 
•  Transferring requests for Information 
•  Consultation with third parties 
•  Refusal of requests 
•  Complaints Procedure 
 
Policy 
on 
Charging 
for 
Requests      
 
Procedure 
for 
Handling 
Request     Pg10 
 
Procedure of dealing with Complaints  
 
 
 
Pg14 
 
Approved version 
 
Approved by Management Board 03/11/04 

 
The London Borough Of Hillingdon and the 
Freedom of Information Act 2000:  
 
 
Introduction 
 
1.  The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 received Royal 
Assent on 30 November 2000 and will be brought fully into force 
by 1 January 2005. The Act provides for a general right of 
access to information held by public authorities or by those 
providing services of a public nature. 
 
copyright 
2.  The FOI Act will apply to some 100,000 public authorities, 
including Central and Local Government, Parliament, the 
National Assembly for Wales, the armed forces, the police, 
hospitals, GPs and dentists, schools, publicly-funded museums 
and many others. Northern Ireland has decided to adopt and 
London 
operate the Act in line with England and Wales. The Scottish 
Parliament has enacted separate Freedom of Information 
legislation introduced by the Scottish Executive, which applies 
to bodies within the competence of the Scottish Parliament. The 
Borough 
Scottish Act will also be fully in force on 1 January 2005. 
 
3.  The Act establishes a general statutory right of access to 
information. Once implemented, in January 2005, a person who 
of 
writes to (or emails) a public authority and asks for information 
will have the right to be told whether or not the authority has 
Hillingdon
the information and, if so, to have that information 
communicated to him, subject to clearly defined exemptions. 
Applicants do not have to specify that they are making the 
request under the Act. The Act is fully retrospective, i.e. it 
applies to all information held by an authority, not merely 
information created or acquired by it after 1 January 2005. 
 
4.  The Act contains Exemptions, which specify the circumstances 
in which information may be withheld. Many of the exemptions 
will be subject to a "public interest" test. Where the public 
interest test applies, the authority will still be required to 
disclose the information, unless it can demonstrate that the 
public interest in withholding the information outweighs the 
public interest in disclosing it. Other Exemptions are "absolute", 
which means that the public interest test does not have to be 
applied. 
 
 
 
Approved Version:  Updated 11/06 
1
 

5.  Any decision not to disclose information may be subject to an 
appeal to the independent Information Commissioner. Decisions 
of the Information Commissioner can be challenged by the 
applicant or the public authority to the Information Tribunal, 
free of charge, and then to the courts on a point of law. The Act 
gives Ministers at Cabinet level the ability to override the 
Commissioner's decision that a Department (or other public 
authority specified by Order) discloses exempt information in 
the public interest. 
 
6.  This Document will lay out how the London Borough Of 
Hillingdon will respond to the Challenge posed by the Freedom 
of Information Act.  It contains, a policy and procedure for 
handling requests for information, a guide for staff on the 
legislation and a guide for members of the public.  
copyright 
 
 
 
 
 
London 
 
 
 
 
Borough 
 
 
 
 
 
of 
 
Hillingdon
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Approved Version:  Updated 11/06 
2
 

The London Borough of Hillingdon and the 
Freedom of Information Act 2000 
 
 

A Staff Guide to the Act 
 
 
How Does the Freedom of Information Act work? 
The Freedom of Information Act facilitates access to information held 
by public authorities in two ways:  
1.  By requiring public authorities to adopt and maintain 
publication schemes.  A Publication scheme is list of the 
information routinely made publicly available. This should have 
the effect of improving the amount and quality of information 
copyright 
routinely made available to the public. 
2.  By creating a right to make a request for information (effective 
from 1 January 2005). 
 
Who has a right of access? 
London 
Anyone, including people living abroad, non-UK citizens, journalists, 
political parties, lobby groups and commercial organisations, will have 
the right to ask public authorities for any information they hold. 
 
Borough 
Do they have to justify why they need access? 
No, the purpose for which they will use the information is irrelevant. 
 
How does an individual make a request for information under the 
of 
Act? 
•  All requests must be made in writing (which includes 
Hillingdon
transmission by electronic means i.e. fax and email). 
•  Must be made in a legible form. 
•  A request must state the name of the applicant and provide an 
address for communication. 
•  Describes the Information Requested. 
•  It is important to note that a requester does not need to mention 
the Freedom of Information Act; they may merely request access 
to information. 
 
How do we respond to a Request? 
•  We have a duty to either confirm or deny if the information 
exists. 
•  The applicant may express a preference for communication of 
the information by any one more of the following means; 
o  Provide a copy in a permanent form or anther form 
acceptable to the applicant. 
o  The provision of a reasonable opportunity to inspect the 
record containing the information. 
Approved Version:  Updated 11/06 
3
 

o  A digest or summary of the information in a permanent 
form or another form acceptable to the applicant. 
•  We must, as far as is reasonably practical, give effect to the 
requester’s stated preference. 
 
Can we charge for the Information? 
The Act allows us to make a charge for responding to requests.  How 
much we can charge is laid down in separate regulations (The 
Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and 
Fees) Regulations 2004. 
 
We can make a charge for Photocopying, printing, postage and 
packaging costs, but we cannot charge for time taken to respond a 
request. 
 
copyright 
The Act and the Regulations do however, lay down a limit to how 
much a request can cost.  If a request would cost us over £450 
(equivalent to 2 ½ days of officer time), an authority is not obliged to 
respond to the request. 
 
London 
If a charge is to be made for a request, we must inform the individual 
of the necessary charge promptly.  The individual then has three 
months to pay.  Until such fee is paid we are under no obligation to 
provide the requested information. 
Borough 
 
The scale of fees that the London Borough Of Hillingdon charges for 
requests is laid out in our Freedom of Information Charging Policy. 
 
How long do we have to respond to a request?
of   
We have to respond to a request within 20 working days of receiving 
Hillingdon
it.  This is regardless of the geographical location of the individual 
making the request. 
 
If a fee is to be paid we have 20 working days to respond from the day 
the fee is received.  In addition, where we reasonably require further 
information from the individual to fulfil the request, we do not have to 
respond until that information is provided.  However, where we 
require further information we must contact the individual promptly. 
 
 
Are there circumstances where we can refuse a request for 
information? 
Yes, there are exemptions under the Act.  The exemptions fall into two 
categories; absolute and qualified exemptions.  Qualified exemptions 
are subject to a public interest test, i.e. although an exemption may 
exist, if the public interest in disclosing the information is greater 
than the public interest in withholding the information then the 
exemption will not apply.  A list of the exemption is available on the 
internal website. 
Approved Version:  Updated 11/06 
4
 

 
In addition, we can refuse a request for information if the request is: 
•  vexatious,  
•  Where we have recently responded to a similar request from the 
same applicant, 
•  Where further information is not received from the applicant 
•  Where a fee has been requested but not paid, or  
•  In circumstances where we estimate that the cost of complying 
with a request would exceed the appropriate limit (£450 – 2 ½ 
days of officer time) 
 
How do we refuse a request? 
If we not going to satisfy a request then we must communicate this to 
the individual by serving a refusal notice to the applicant.  A refusal 
notice should contain: 
copyright 
•  A statement to why the request is being refused, what 
exemption applies and why. 
•  Details of our complaints handling policy. 
•  The Details of an individual’s right to complain to the 
Information Commissioner under section 50 of the Act. 
London 
 
Who has responsibility within the London Borough of Hillingdon 
for Freedom of Information?
 
The Data Protection Officer based in Legal Services has responsibility 
Borough 
for Freedom of Information within the Council.  If you have any 
questions regarding the Act then do not hesitate to contact him. 
 
Location:   Legal Services, Chief Executives Office, Civic Centre 3E 04 
of 
Email:  
xxxxxx@xxxxxxxxxx.xxx.xx  
Ext:  
6923 
Hillingdon
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Approved Version:  Updated 11/06 
5
 

The London Borough Of Hillingdon and the 
 Freedom of Information Act 2000: 
 
Policy for Responding to Requests For Information 
 
 
 
1.  Advice and Assistance 
 
The London borough of Hillingdon will provide individuals with 
information on their right of access to information held by the 
Council under the Freedom of Information Act. 
 
The Information will include:  
copyright 
•  An explanation of the Publication Scheme, what information is 
on it and how to access it. 
•  How to make a request for information to the London Borough 
Of Hillingdon for information not included on the publication 
scheme.  
London 
•  How the London Borough Of Hillingdon will deal with a request 
for information. 
 
This Information will be made available to the members of the 
Borough 
public via the website and leaflets in public libraries.  Members of 
staff will also provide this information on request. 
The London Borough Of Hillingdon will, where necessary, also 
assist individuals in making a request for information.  The type of 
assistance we provide will depend on the circumstances of each 
of 
case, but may include: 
Hillingdon
•  Advice as to what types of information we hold and how it is 
filed. 
•  Advice as to other organisations who may be able to help them 
make a request. 
•  Provide a general response to the request setting out options for 
further information which may be provided on request. 
 
It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list, and that 
assistance of this nature is only available in certain circumstances. 
 
 
2.  Charging for Requests 
 
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 allows public authorities to 
charge a fee for access to information.  The scale of charges is laid 
down in The Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate 
Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004. 
 
 
Approved Version:  Updated 11/06 
6
 

As the London Borough of Hillingdon has a duty to the Council 
taxpayer to ensure that public funds are spent appropriately, we will 
charge fees where allowed by legislation to cover the costs of 
responding to requests. 
 
The fee regulations do not apply in circumstances where: 
•  The material is made available under the publication scheme. 
•  The information is reasonably accessible to the applicant by 
other means. 
•  Or where the fee that may be charged for information is set 
down in legislation other than the Freedom of Information Act or 
Fees Regulations. 
 
In circumstances where the cost of fulfilling a request exceeds an 
‘appropriate limit’ (£450), a public authority is not obliged to comply 
copyright 
with the request. 
 
Where a fee is required for a request this will be communicated to the 
applicant, as soon as is practicable, in a fees notice. 
 
London 
An applicant has three months from the date of the fees notice to 
provide the requested fee.  Unless and until the fee is paid we are not 
obliged to comply with the request.  
 
Borough 
See the FOI Fees Policy for more information. 
 
 
3.  Handling requests that appear as part of an Organised Campaign 
 
of 
If the cost of responding to a request exceeds the ‘appropriate limit,’ a 
Hillingdon
Public Authority is not obliged to respond to the request.  
 
Where the London Borough Of Hillingdon receives multiple requests 
for information that appear to be part of an organised campaign and 
where the costs of responding to each request exceed the appropriate 
limit, we will consider alternative arrangements for making the 
information available to all the applicants. 
 
 
4.  Transferring requests for Information 
 
If the London Borough of Hillingdon receives a request for information 
for which we only hold part or none of the information requested by 
the applicant and which we reasonably believe may be held by another 
public authority we will: 
•  Contact the applicant and inform them that another public 
authority may hold some or all of the information. 
•  Suggest that the applicant reapplies to that authority in regards 
to the information we do not hold. 
Approved Version:  Updated 11/06 
7
 

•  Provide them with the contact details for that authority, which 
we believe, may hold the information requested. 
 
In some circumstances we may decide that it would be appropriate to 
transfer the request directly to the other public authority, which we 
believe may hold the information requested. 
 
When we do this we, will firstly contact that public authority to 
ascertain whether they do hold the information requested.  We will 
then contact the individual to inform them that we are transferring 
the request.  The individual will be given the opportunity to object to 
the transfer before it takes place. 
 
 
5.  Consultation with third parties 
copyright 
 
In certain circumstances, the London Borough of Hillingdon will not 
be able to fully respond to a request because to do so may affect the 
legal rights of a third party. 
 
London 
The two main circumstances will be: 
•  Information provided in confidence. 
•  Information constituting personal data as defined by the Data 
Protection Act 1998. 
Borough 
 
Where a duty of confidence exists in relation to any information 
covered by a request, the London Borough Of Hillingdon will take 
steps to consult the appropriate third party with a view to seeking 
their consent for the disclosure. 
of 
 
Hillingdon
Where the information constitutes personal data, the London Borough 
of Hillingdon will consider the necessary parts of the Data Protection 
Act 1998 before determining our response.  This process may also 
involve, where appropriate, seeking the consent of the individual 
involved. 
 
Where the interests of a third party are at stake, but where we do not 
have a duty of confidence to the third party, we will consult the third 
party when: 
•  The views of the third party may assist us in determining 
whether an exemption under the Act applies. 
•  The views of the third party may assist us in determining where 
the public interest lies. 
 
 
6.  Refusal of requests 
 
Where a request for information is refused the London Borough of 
Hillingdon will serve a refusal notice.  The refusal notice will 
Approved Version:  Updated 11/06 
8
 

communicate to the applicant the decision and the reasons behind 
that decision.  The reasons for which a public authority can refuse a 
requested are listed in the Freedom of Information staff guide. 
 
Information regarding the London Borough of Hillingdon’s Freedom of 
Information Complaints procedure will be included in any refusal 
notice. 
 
A record will be kept of all requests that are refused.  This record will 
include circumstances where only part of the request was refused. 
 
 
7. Complaints Procedure 
 
The London Borough of Hillingdon has put in place a complaints 
copyright 
procedure to deal with cases where an applicant considers that their 
request has not been properly handled, or who are otherwise 
dissatisfied with the outcome of the consideration of their request. 
 
Details of the complaints procedure will be provided to an applicant at 
London 
the same time we communicate to them the decision regarding their 
request. 
 
The Complaints Procedure will be available on the councils website or 
Borough 
by contacting the FOI Officer. 
 
 
 
 
of 
 
Hillingdon
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Approved Version:  Updated 11/06 
9
 

Handling Request under the Freedom of Information 
Act 2000 – Key Processes 
 
 
1 Initial receipt of requests
 
•  Validate and record 
2 Advice and Assistance 
 
• 
• 
Satisfy ‘easy’ requests 
Clarify request 
Release 
 
• 
• 
Direct to advice and 
Advise, help submit 
Information 
• 
 
assistance 
Direct elsewhere 
• 
 
Distribute to FOI Officer 
 
 
 
 
3 Receipt by FOI officer 
 
•  Log request 
copyright 
 
•  Validate/to advice & 
DP Act Process 
 
assistance 
Or 
 
•  To DP or EIR process 
EIR Process 
 
•  Decide process and plan 
4 Easy/F ast Track 
(release able, easily satisfied, 
London 
 
limited volume) 
• 
 
Collect and send information
•  Consid 
5 Complex A 
er updating system 
 
•  Vexatious or repeated 
• 
 
Dialogue with applicant 
Borough 
•  Charge 
 
•  Issues/timescales 
 
•  Plan 
 
Release 
 
Information 
of 
 
 
Hillingdon
6 Complex B  
 
•  Collect  
 
•  Consult internal 
9 Refu sal Process 
•  External where necessary 
• 
 
Refuse with Reasons 
•  Info  rm of complaints 
  
pr
 
ocess 
 
 
 
10 Release Process 
•  Seni  or Review? 
 Absolute exemption 
  none      •  Apply any charges 
• 
 
Record 
   
• 
7 Complex C  
Release information 
 
 
• 
• 
Consider Exemptions 
Consider for 
 
publication scheme 
• 
 
 
 
Record 
Subject to 
 
Public Interest 
Test 
 
None 
Yes 
 
8 Complex D  
 
•  Consider Public Interest
 
Release 
Information 

 
 
 
 
Approved Version:  Updated 11/06 
10
 

1. 
Initial receipts of requests  
•  All requests for Information under the Freedom of Information 
Act 2000 must be made in writing. 
•  A request for information can arrive in any part of the 
organisation. 
•  If you receive a request and the information requested is part of 
your normal business activity there is no need to take any 
further action – just respond to the request as you would 
normally.  This would apply if the request was made verbally; if 
it was part of your normal business activity then supply the 
requested information. 
•  If the request for information is not what you would normally 
deal with either contact the Data Protection Officer (who is 
responsible for the Freedom of Information Act) or your 
department FOI Officer who will advise you on what to do next. 
copyright 
•  If the request is for information about an individual – forward 
the request on to the Data Protection Officer. 
 
2. 

Advice and Assistance 
•  We have an obligation to provide advice and assistance to 
London 
individuals seeking access to information. 
•  If an individual is trying to make a request then provide 
information on how to make a request for information under 
FOI 
Borough 
•  Direct the individual to the Councils Website or send them an 
Access to Information Pack. 
•  If Hillingdon is not the correct organisation – either inform the 
individual of the correct organisation or pass the request to that 
of 
organisation directly. 
 
Hillingdon
3. 
Receipt by FOI Officer 
•  Majority of requests will be dealt with directly by front line staff. 
However if the request is outside their normal business activity, 
they should contact the FOI Officer. 
•  The FOI Officer may also receive requests directly. 
•  The FOI Officer will log all requests he receives either directly or 
from frontline staff. 
•  He will consider all requests. 
•  If the request is for Personal Information, he will deal with it 
under the Subject Access Policy and Procedure. 
•  If necessary at this stage, the FOI officer will ascertain whether 
the requested information exists. 
 
4. 
Easy to fulfil Requests 
•  It is likely that the FOI Officer will receive many requests which 
are simple to fulfil. 
Approved Version:  Updated 11/06 
11
 

•  In these cases it is just a matter of recording the request and 
providing the information.  He will forward the request to the 
relevant department. 
•  If a large numbers of easy to fulfil requests are being received by 
the FOI Officer, he will consider; 
a.  Improving training at the front end to make sure these 
requests get dealt with straight away. 
b.  Making the information publicly available by putting it on 
the publication scheme. 
 
5. 
Complex A – Preliminaries 
•  The output part of this process is to ascertain a clear 
understanding of the request, the likely cost, the likely 
timescale and to develop a plan for meeting the request. 
•  If the request is complex then it is important to establish 
copyright 
whether it necessary to pursue the request at this stage. 
•  Is the request vexatious?  Has the person made the same 
request before?  This needs to be resolved at this stage. 
•  Is the request clear?  It may be necessary to contact the 
requesting individual to establish exactly what information they 
London 
are after.  It is important to note that the reason they want the 
information is irrelevant. 
•  Consider potential costs.  If it is likely that the potential cost will 
exceed the fees limit then we do not have to respond.  We 
Borough 
should contact the applicant to discuss alternative 
arrangements. 
•  If the request is difficult to fulfil it may be necessary to notify 
the individual of the likely timescale. of 
 
6. Complex 

Hillingdon
•  The requested information should now be collected from 
wherever it is held.  This may involve either physically copying 
documents or just transferring them electronically. 
•  It may be necessary to consult in order to ascertain whether the 
information should be disclosed. This should be done to short, 
tight timescales. 
o  Internally – consult officers who best understand the 
issues.  (For example procurement officers in relation to 
contract information etc)  The purpose is to understand if 
any of the exemptions may apply. 
o  External – where third parties provided the information 
they should be asked whether they believe they would 
likely to be prejudiced by release in any way, and if so 
why exactly and how?  It is important to establish 
whether any implicit duty of confidence applies to any of 
the information.  If so, the third party should be asked 
whether they agree to its release. 
 
 
Approved Version:  Updated 11/06 
12
 

 
 
 
 
7. Complex 

•  The information has now being collected and all relevant parties 
have been consulted. 
•  Consider any relevant exemptions and whether the information 
should be provided. 
•  If the exemption is absolute, consider whether the information 
can be redacted. 
•  If the exemption is qualified, then consider the public interest 
test. 
 
8. Complex 

copyright 
•  Go through the public interest test.   
•  Record decision 
•  Consider whether information can be redacted to remove 
exempt information. 
•  Either disclose or refuse 
London 
 
9. Refusal 
process 
•  If the request for information is to be refused, then this should 
be communicated formally to the individual along with the 
Borough 
reasons for refusal. 
•  The individual should also be given the chance to appeal, so 
information on the complaints process should be provided. 
•  Details should be kept of all refusals of 
 
Hillingdon
10. Release 
process 
•  Collect fees, unless they have already been provided 
•  Release the requested information 
•  Record the request. 
•  Consider whether requested information should be included on 
the publication scheme. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Approved Version:  Updated 11/06 
13
 

 
 
 
The London Borough Of Hillingdon and the 
Freedom of Information Act 2000: 
 
Freedom of Information Complaints Procedure 
 
 
If you are dissatisfied with a response to a request for information 
made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, you can make a 
complaint.  This document sets out how you should make your 
complain and how we will deal with it. 
 
copyright 
 
Introduction 
You can make a complaint in circumstances where information has 
been withheld because of an exemption or, you are not satisfied with 
the response you have received or when the time taken for us to 
London 
respond is over 20 working days. 
 
The London Borough of Hillingdon’s FOI complaints procedure is 
designed to achieve three aims.  Firstly, to inform you about the Act 
Borough 
and your rights.  Secondly, to review any decisions made regarding 
the application of exemptions and finally to rectify any errors made in 
the FOI procedure. 
 
There are four stages to the complaints process 
of 
1. Informal Discussion 
Hillingdon
2.  Write to the FOI Officer 
3.  Write to the Deputy Borough Solicitor 
4.  Information Commissioners Office 
 
 
Informal Contact 
Before instigating a formal complaint in writing, you first contact the 
officer who dealt with your request or the Council’s FOI Officer to 
voice your concerns.  It may be that through a process of informal 
discussion, they can satisfy your concerns regarding the response by 
providing with you information regarding your application and your 
rights. 
 
 
Freedom of Information Officer 
If you are unable to resolve the complaint informally, then you should 
write to the Freedom of Information Officer who will address your 
concerns formally within 15 working days. 
 
Approved Version:  Updated 11/06 
14
 

 
Deputy Borough Solicitor 
If you unhappy with the Freedom of Information Officer’s response, 
then you should write to the Deputy Borough Solicitor.  In your letter 
you should explain your concerns and give an explanation as to why 
you believe that the Freedom of Information Officer’s response was 
unsatisfactory.  The Deputy Borough Solicitor will then conduct an 
independent review of your application for information and your 
subsequent complaint.  You will receive a response within 15 working 
days. 
 
 
Information Commissioners Office 
If you are still dissatisfied, you can seek an independent, external 
review from the Information Commissioner although the internal 
copyright 
review must normally be completed before such an appeal can be 
made. Requests for a review by the Information Commissioner should 
be made in writing directly to: 
The Information Commissioner 
Wycliffe House 
London 
Water Lane 
Wilmslow 
Cheshire SK9 5AF 
Tel: 01625 545 700 
Borough 
Fax: 01625 545 510 
 
 
 
 
of 
 
Hillingdon
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Approved Version:  Updated 11/06 
15