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Freedom of Information

Frequently asked questions


1. What is Freedom of Information?

It is new legislation which gives you, the public, a general right of access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities such as Devon County Council. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 allows people to see how public bodies work and encourages active participation in the process. From January 1st 2005, you will be able to find out much more about what the Council does and why.

2. What is the Act designed to do?

It is designed to:

  • Encourage greater openness and accountability in public authorities
  • Help increase levels of public trust
  • Encourage improvements in our interaction with the public

The ‘spirit’ of the Act is of full disclosure although there are some exemptions applicable where certain information need not be released.

3. Who can request information under the Act?

After January 1st 2005 - Anyone can, whatever their age, nationality, location or reason.

4. What type of information is available?

As a general rule, you are entitled to request any information created within the Council or received from elsewhere and held by us. There are too many examples to list here but may include:

  • Agendas and Minutes
  • Policies
  • Reports
  • Expenditure
  • Strategies
  • Records procedures
  • Service provision
  • Quality standards against targets

5. How can you access information held by the Council?

The Council already has a policy of making general information available on request. This policy will continue. The Freedom of Information Act provides additional methods by which you can obtain information from the Council. These are:

A. The Publication Scheme

Under the Act, The Council is required to produce and maintain a Publication Scheme. This scheme is a database which lists the publications, documents and information that the Council makes publicly available. It sets out:

  • What information the Council publishes
  • How and when it publishes information

Each entry describes how the information is available. You access this scheme through the Council’s on-line Publication Scheme. If you are unable to access the Publication Scheme electronically, there is a paper version available. For a copy of this, please contact the Freedom of Information Office at the address below.

B. Individual Access Request

If the information you want is not available through the Publication Scheme, you may submit an Individual Access Request to the Council to obtain it subject to some exemptions.

6. How do I submit an individual access request?

The FOI Act requires these requests to be made in writing , including e-mail , and the Council will ensure help is available to do this if needed. Alternatively, you can complete the freedom of information request slip which can found on the FOI public leaflet. This is available as a printed copy which you can pick up in your local library or county council office , in pdf format and on request in large print, Braille or tape. Your written request must:

  • state clearly what information is required
  • state the name of the applicant
  • state an address for correspondence

Please provide as much detail as possible as this will greatly assist us in searching for the information you have requested. For example,  any dates or the names of council officers which may be relevant.

7. What happens if you submit an individual access request?

If you submit a request, under the Act, the Council is legally required to inform you:

  • whether or not the information is held at Devon County Council
  • whether or not the information is subject to any exemptions
  • provide the information request within 20 working days

The Council will use the information contained in your request to respond appropriately and as quickly as possible. Your request will be acknowledged in writing. We may also contact you if any clarification of your request is a copy.

8. Will I have to pay anything ?

Documents that can be identified and obtained via our FOI Publication Scheme will either be available free of charge or with a fee. The scheme will indicate if there is a fee.

There may also be a fee for providing information not in the FOI Publication Scheme. Devon County Council has a policy of  open and fair access to information and will usually waive any charges in normal circumstances.

If your request is complex or you are asking for a large amount of information there may be a charge but you will be informed of the details and either given time to pay or an opportunity to discuss changing your request.

9. Can I request personal information held by the Council about me?

If you wish to obtain personal information held by the Council about you, you are entitled to do so under the Data Protection Act, 1998. For further information about accessing personal information held about you, please visit the Council’s website at Data Protection

10. What if I am not satisfied with the actions of the Council regarding my request?

If you are unhappy with the way your request was handled or with the information the Council has released to you, please let us know by writing to the Freedom of Information Office at the address below clearly stating what the issue is. We will endeavour to resolve any problems. If it is agreed that the information is incomplete, we will correct it.

Freedom of Information Office
Customer Relations & Information Governance team

Room 120

Devon County Council
Topsham Road
Exete r

If you are still unhappy with your request was handled by the Council, please contact the Information Commissioner’s Office at:

The Office of the Information Commissioner
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Telephone 01625 545700

11. Tracing your relatives

At Devon County Council we often get requests asking us to help trace living relatives.  Unfortunately we are unable to help, even if we do know if the person is in Devon.  This is because we have a duty to protect an individual’s information, under the Data Protection Act 1998.

The Devon County Council Information Governance team has produced some short guidance for people looking to trace their relatives which is available online.