Advice an help
Ask for information
It might sound simple but make sure you ask for the right information. It’s all too easy to ask a generic question to an authority. The act defines information as ‘information recorded in any form’. They act does not require an authority to gather information it does not already hold or to submit information that is not specifically asked for. Simplicity means clarity, not vagueness. You could end up with information you did not want!
Say you’re requesting under the FOI act
It takes one line in an email or letter to say ‘I’m requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000′.
With a lot of authorities, especially local councils, using catchall contact email addresses it makes it easier for the person dealing with your request to send it to the correct person/realise it is an FOI request.
Applying for something blindly will often end well – for you or the person dealing with the request. If you’re applying for information relating to a certain law/act make sure you look at it beforehand and quote references to it in your FOI request.
Always avoid slang or colloquialisms for the information you are requesting as these will most likely not be held by the authority. Instead of asking for the number of convictions for ‘joy riding’ find out what the legal term for it is (‘Taking without owners consent’). Again clarity is everything.
Has the request been made before, if so then the information should be available on the internet or the information could well be in the public domain all ready.
Don’t be vague
The more specific you are when you ask for information the more likely you will be to get it. Asking for data on a broad topic is more likely to see the request rejected due to the cost limit exemption (unless this information is stored and easily searchable). The more specific a request the more likely of success. For example asking for all housing complaints from 1880-2017 is unlikely to be successful as cost and time implications could mean your FOI request is rejected.
Under Section 16 of the act it is the duty of Freedom of Information officers to provide assistance and guidance to those making/or who have made requests.
For example adding a caveat to a request is like the above housing complaints request, you could ask for all complaints from 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2016, however should costs be an issue then I would be happy with 2001 -3.