What information can be requested?
You can make a request to see or to have copies of any records which we hold. Access to information is principally governed by 2 main legislative provisions under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR). They both provide rights of access to information publicly held with some exemptions/exceptions. All requests for information will be treated initially as Freedom of Information requests. However section 39 of the FOIA exempts environmental information from being dealt with under the Act and provides that it should be dealt with under EIR. Environmental information includes:
The state of the elements of the environment: Such as air, water, soil, animals and humans.
Emissions and discharges: Such as noise, energy, waste, radiation.
Measures and activities aﬀecting or likely to aﬀect the state of the elements of the environment: Such as policies, plans, agreements.
Reports, cost-benefit and economic analysis.
The state of human health and safety: Such as food hygiene.
Cultural sites and built structures (to the extent they may be aﬀected by the state of the elements of the environment).
There are two categories of exempt information under the FOI Act: Non-absolute exemptions and absolute exemptions. Where we are claiming an exemption under the Act, we will inform you of the specific exemption which we are claiming and why it applies, within 20 working days.
If the information requested is covered by an Absolute exemption, eg information accessible to the applicant by other means, we do not have to consider disclosing it in the public interest, nor do we have to state whether or not we hold the information in question.
If the information requested is covered by a Non-absolute exemption, eg commercial interests, we have to consider the public interest in confirming or denying that the information exists and in disclosing information. We may disclose information, even where an exemption applies, if the public interest in disclosure outweighs the public interest in maintaining the exemption.
EIR requests are processed in the same way as FOI requests but information may be covered by a number of exceptions rather than the exemptions under the FOI Act.
How do I make a request for information?
FOI requests must be made in writing by letter or email, giving details of your contact information and a detailed description of the information which you are requesting. While requests under EIR may be made verbally it would be advantageous if they are made in writing so that a detailed description is made of the information you are requesting.
Requests should be addressed to:
Information Governance Manager
Antrim Civic Centre
50 Stiles Way
Tel: 028 9446 3113
When will I receive the information?
We will respond to requests promptly and in all cases our target is to respond within 20 working days. If a charge applies or if additional information is required to deal with the request, this may lengthen the response time. In cases where information is covered by an exemption, but we are required to consider the public interest in releasing it, we will endeavour to provide the information, wherever possible, within the 20 working day target. We will let you know if there will be a delay in providing the information.
When will there be a charge?
Antrim & Newtownabbey Council believes strongly in openness so we will attempt to keep the cost of information as low as possible. Normally there is no charge for making a request.
We may charge disbursement costs eg. Postage & photocopying. If it is decided to charge for photocopying it will be at a rate of 10p per A4 sheet.
Can I appeal against the decision?
If you are unhappy with this service or wish a review of the decision on your request, you should firstly use our internal appeals procedure –
Stage 1 – the appeal should be addressed to the Head of Governance in the first instance.The appeal will be acknowledged to you either in writing or by phone within 3 days. We aim to respond to the appeal within 15 working days after receipt.
Stage 2 – if the appeal has been investigated but the applicant is not satisfied with the reply then they should inform the Director of Finance and Governance.Again, the Council will acknowledge within 3 days and aim to respond within 15 days.
Stage 3 – if you are still not satisfied you have the right to request the Chief Executive to review the response and take appropriate action if applicable.
If you remain dissatisfied following completion of the internal appeal procedure, you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for a decision.
Generally, the ICO cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted the appeals procedures provided by the Council.
The Information Commissioner’s Office can be contacted at:
The Information Commissioner’s Office
12 Cromac Place
Telephone: 028 9027 8757 / 0303 123 1114
One of the responsibilities under the Act is to produce and maintain a publication scheme which is designed to allow easy access to information not routinely available from other sources. The publication scheme must set out the types of information the authority publishes, the format(s) in which it is available and details of any charges incurred.
Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council’s Publication Scheme is currently being reviewed. In the short term, please contact the Information Governance team to obtain a copy of the information sought.
Retentions and Disposal Schedule
Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, every public authority must publish and maintain a Publication Scheme which sets out the information they routinely make available to members of the public. Our Publication Scheme follows the model scheme for all public authorities which was drawn up by the Information Commissioner who is responsible for monitoring and enforcing compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.
It details the types or 'classes' of information which are available from the Council and you should be able to find most of this information on our web site, which is being updated regularly.
The Council is currently reviewing improved access to information and updating the publication scheme. If the information you require does not appear to be included in the Publication Scheme, you may wish to request the information using your right under the Freedom of Information legislation. Applicants should provide as much detail as possible to identify the information sought.