What is the Freedom of Information Act?
The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act (FOI) came into effect on 1 January 2005, and aims to increase openness and accountability by ensuring people can access information held by Scottish public authorities - including East Ayrshire Council.
People have the right to access all types of recorded information and, apart from certain specific exemptions, authorities and their staff must comply with these requests.
Every type of recorded information the Council holds is covered by the Act, including old records, archives, minutes and business papers. Enquirers do not have to give a reason for asking for the information.
Are there any exceptions to providing information?
Yes, there are some. If, for example: giving the information would cause a breach of confidence to a third party; if it divulged personal information on an individual; or if the information was commercially sensitive. The Council can give advice on exemptions, which are detailed in the Act. Additional detailed guidance is available from the website of the Scottish Information Commissioner.
How much does it cost?
Regulations made by the Scottish Ministers govern the scale of fees which can be applied for providing information. Costs for providing published materials are set out in the Council's Publication Scheme.
The Council has discretion in applying fees. You will be advised of any costs applicable and will be required to pay costs before the information is provided.
Different fees apply to requests for information governed by the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations. We will advise you if we think these regulations apply to your request and advise you of the level of any fee.
What is an FOI request?
Any individual or organisation can make a request for information the Council holds, and will be entitled to receive it, provided the Council holds the information (or someone else holds it on our behalf), provided no exemptions apply, and provided that locating and supplying the information would not exceed the maximum amount allowed by the Fees Regulations.
In order to be valid, requests must:
- be in writing or some other permanent form (for example, e-mail or recorded message)
- state the applicant's name and address
- describe what information is required.
You can make an FOI request in the following ways:
E-mail Freedom of Information enquiries/requests to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Write to us at:
Freedom of information
East Ayrshire Council Headquarters
Finding information in other ways
Before making an FOI request, it's important to note that the Council already places a large amount of information in public buildings such as libraries. In addition, a considerable amount of information about the Council's services and activities, including the Publication Scheme and Guide to Information, is published on the Council website.
Internet facilities are provided at East Ayrshire Public Libraries.
So, before requesting information, please first visit our website, or your local library, to find out whether the information you're looking for is already available. You can search our website through the on-screen navigation headings, or by using the 'Search' or 'A to Z' facilities.
Doing this could save you time because, if the information you require has already been made available to the public in these ways, the Council would normally refer you back to that source.
How your FOI request will be handled
Your request will be dealt with promptly and, usually, within 20 working days. There is no need to explain why information is being asked for. However, giving as much detail as you can may help us respond more fully to your request.
There's no obligation for the Council to comply with an information request if:
- an exemption applies
- if the cost of doing so would exceed the amount set by the fees regulations
- if the information is not held by the Council
In these instances, you will be notified why the Council cannot comply with your request (or cannot comply with it in full).
What happens if information is not provided?
If you are dissatisfied with the way your request is dealt with, you can ask for a formal review by the Council (these are handled by the Council’s Legal Services Department) and, thereafter, appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner.
The Commissioner is a fully independent public official, with a range of powers under the Act to ensure compliance, and can be contacted at: Scottish Information Commissioner, Kinburn Castle, Doubledykes Road, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9DS, Tel 01334 464610.