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How to obtain information from the Council

The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOI) aims to increase openness and accountability by ensuring people can access information held by Scottish public authorities – including, South 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. FOI is retrospective, meaning people can ask for information relating to issues from years ago. Enquirers do not have to give a reason for asking for the information.

About the Act

If you ask for information, the Council will have to provide you with that information, provided that certain conditions are fulfilled and subject only to the limitations imposed by the Act and other legislation.

The Council already makes large amounts of information available to the public in public buildings such as libraries and by means of publication on our website. The Act reinforces this approach through a formal process for providing information that is not routinely made available.

About the regulations

The Council has a duty to make environmental information available to the public under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (the EIRs). It is unlikely that an applicant will refer to the EIRs in making a request for information, and it is for the Council to determine the correct access regime.

Definition of environmental information

The definition of environmental information is very wide and it covers not only the natural environment, but also the built environment. Information requests under the Regulations may cover areas such as: environmental health, sustainable development, planning, roads, building standards and housing.

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 and Regulations.

How much does it cost?

Scottish Executive regulations 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.

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 no exemptions apply. Requests must:

  • be in writing or some other permanent form (e.g. e-mail or recorded message);
  • state the applicant’s name and address;
  • describe what information is required.

What is an EIR request?

An EIR request can be made in the same way as an FOI request.

However, verbal requests for information e.g. a request made in the course of a meeting, a request left on a voicemail or a telephone answering machine are valid requests for environmental information and as such will be dealt with in the same way as written requests.

You can make an FOI/EIR request in the following ways:

To make an information request and for further help and assistance please contact:

Team Leader (Information Governance)
Resources, Governance & Organisation
Legal and Democratic
South Ayrshire Council
County Buildings
Wellington Square
Ayr KA7 1DR
Telephone: 01292 612223
E-mail: foi@south-ayrshire.gov.uk

Finding information in other ways

When seeking information from the Council, please make full use of the Council’s website, details of which are given below. You can search the website using on- screen navigation headings, or by using the “Search” or “A to Z” facilities.

You can also locate information using the Council’s Publication Scheme. The Scheme has been approved by the Scottish Information Commissioner and specifies:

  • The classes of information that the Council routinely publishes;
  • The manner in which information in each class is, or is intended to be published; and
  • Details of any charges that may apply.

The Council aims to ensure that the content and structure of its scheme reflects the types of information in which there is a clear public interest, and reviews and updates the publication scheme on a regular basis.

The Council’s Publications Scheme is available or in hard copy on request. Any information contained in the scheme will be made available in the manner indicated.

If you are unable to find the information you are looking for by these means, the Council will be happy to assist you through its Freedom of Information service.

Anyone making a request for environmental information may also use the Freedom of Information service to make the request.

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 cite the Act or 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;
  • the cost of doing so would exceed the amount set by the fees regulations;
  • the information is not held by the Council.

In these instances, you will be notified why the Council cannot comply with your request.

What happens if information is not provided?

If you are dissatisfied with the Council’s handling of your request for information, you have the right to ask the Council to review the matter. If you remain dissatisfied, you can contact the Scottish Information Commissioner. The Commissioner is a fully independent public official, with a range of powers under the Act to ensure compliance. You can view the Commissioner’s website at www.itspublicknowledge.info for further information.

The Commissioner can be contacted at:

Scottish Information Commissioner
Kinburn Castle
Doubledykes Road
St Andrews
Fife
KY16 9DS
Tel: 01334 464610

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Last updated: 8 February 2016

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