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Freedom of Information and Environmental Information Regulations

Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) give people a right of access to information held by public bodies, including West Oxfordshire District Council, unless that information is subject to any of the exemptions specified by law.  

Freedom of Information Publication Scheme

The act also requires us to produce a publication scheme. The scheme provides details of the information proactively published by the council. If you cannot find the information you are looking for in the Publication Scheme and would like to make an FOI request, you can make it online.

How to make a FOI or EIR request

Please use the following form to make an online request:

Make a FOI or EIR request online

We will normally respond to your request in full within 20 working days.  However, if there is any concern about what information you require, or there are any related charges, or should we have to apply an exemption (that is, in some cases, subject to a public interest test) this time may be extended.

Please note the supply of information under FOI or EIR does not constitute permission for its use in a way that would infringe copyright and you should obtain permission from the copyholder before considering any such use.

If you are disappointed with the response to your enquiry you can ask us to review our decision and actions. You must do this within 40 working days of the date of our response stating the reason for your dissatisfaction, and we will respond within 20 working days of receipt.  If you are still dissatisfied or we are unable to resolve any other complaint then you can contact the independent regulator, the Information Commissioner.

Environmental Information Regulations

Environmental Information Regulations (EIRs) cover a wide variety of environmental information including:

  • Raw data on topics such as air and water quality levels, industrial discharge rates, soil quality and biodiversity.
  • Regulatory measures affecting the environment, including policies, plans, programmes and agreements.
  • Reports on the implementation of environmental legislation.
  • Economic analyses, including cost benefit analysis on regulatory measures.
  • Health and safety information, on subjects such as food and land contamination and quality of life.

The main differences between EIRs and FOIs are that:

  • Requests for information through EIRs can be oral as well as written.
  • The EIR Exemptions are narrower and fewer.
  • The exemptions are all subject to the public interest test.

FOI and EIR exemptions

Freedom of Information (FOI) Act exemptions

The FoI Act enables people to request specific information held by public bodies, but there are also a number cases where information may not be disclosed which are called exemptions. The two main types of exemptions that apply to information held by West Oxfordshire District Council are:

Qualified exemptions

These are where information must be disclosed unless it can be argued that the public interest in withholding it is greater than the public interest in releasing it. This applies to:

  • Information intended for future publication
  • Investigations and proceedings conducted by us
  • Law enforcement
  • Health and safety
  • Environmental information
  • Legal professional privilege
  • Commercial interests
  • Where disclosure would be prejudicial to the effective conduct of the Councils affairs.

Absolute exemptions

These are where the information will not be disclosed, including:

  • Information accessible to the applicant by other means
  • Court records and other similar documentation
  • Personal information
  • Information provided in confidence by a third party where disclosure would give rise to an actionable breach of confidence.

Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) exceptions

Information can be withheld if it would adversely affect any of the matters below, though most of these are subject to a Public Interest Test to assess whether the public interest in withholding it is greater than the public interest in releasing it:

  • International relations
  • Defence and national security
  • Public safety
  • The course of justice, including court proceedings within a public authority
  • Intellectual property rights
  • Legal confidentiality of any proceedings within a public authority
  • Commercial confidentiality designed to protect legitimate economic interests
  • Voluntarily supplied information from people who have not consented to its disclosure
  • The environment to which the information relates.

Other exceptions (some of which are also subject to a Public Interest Test) include:

  • Requests that are manifestly unreasonable or too general
  • Incomplete or unfinished information such as draft reports or other work in progress
  • Internal communications from within the authority
  • Personal data

Public interest test

Generally the public interest is served when the disclosure of information would:

  • Further the understanding of, and the participation in, the debate of issues of the day
  • Facilitate the accountability and transparency of our decisions
  • Facilitate accountability and transparency in our spending of public money
  • Allow individuals to understand decisions made by us that affect their lives and, in some cases, assist individuals in challenging those decisions
  • Bring to light information affecting public safety.

However, we may withhold information where we think that the public interest will not be served, for instance where we believe that release will discourage openness in expression of opinions.

FOI and EIR charges

If the cost of complying with your request would exceed the cost limit in the legislation (£450), we will only supply the information after receiving payment for the total costs incurred. 

We do not currently charge for disbursements.