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The Freedom of Information Act requires every public authority to have a publication scheme, approved by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), and to publish information covered by the scheme. The scheme must set out the authorities commitment to make certain classes of information routinely available, such as policies and procedures, minutes of meetings, annual reports and financial information. The information you release in accordance with the publication scheme represents the minimum you must disclose. If a member of the public wants information not listed in the scheme, they can still ask you for it

Most public authorities will make their publication scheme available on their website under ‘freedom of information’, In addition, there are two codes of practice contain recommended good practice when applying the Act.

The section 45 code of practice, gives recommendations for public authorities about their handling of requests. It covers:

  • The situations in which you should give advice and assistance to those making requests
  • The complaints procedures you should put in place
  • Various considerations that may affect the relationships with other public bodies or third parties.

The section 46 code of practice covers good records management practice and the obligations of public authorities under the Public Records Acts to maintain their records in an ordered and managed way so that they can readily retrieve information when it is needed.

These codes of practice are not directly legally binding, but failure to follow them is likely to lead to breaches of the Act.  A public authority must make its staff, contractors, and customers aware of how the Act and how it affects them.

The Freedom of Information Act may work alongside other laws. If someone makes a request for information that includes someone else’s personal data, there is a need to consider the case for transparency and openness under the Freedom of Information Act against the data subject’s right to privacy under the Data Protection Act in deciding whether the information can be released without breaching the data protection principles.

Other obligations under acts like the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Welsh Language Act 199, amongst others need also be considered.  Further detailed guidance can be found on the ICO website and we have put a link on the student download area.