Requesting information from the council - dos and donts

Requesting Information - Dos
Example
All FOI, EIR or Subject Access Requests should be sent to the Information Governance Team using the Online Form or alternative forms. Using the forms will mean that you request will be processed more efficiently.
Include your name, address and other contact details in your request.
Clearly state that you are making your request under the Freedom of Information Act/Environmental Information Regulations.
Be as specific as possible about the information you want rather than asking general questions. Try to include details such as dates and names whenever you can. It will also assist the council in identifying the information if you explain the purpose behind your request.
Re-read your request to check for any wording which is unclear or open to interpretation.
Use straightforward, polite language; avoid basing your request or question on assumptions or opinions, or mixing requests with complaints or comments.
Specify whether you have any preferences as to how you would like to receive the information, for example if you would prefer a paper copy or to receive an email.
Give the council ample opportunity to address any previous requests you have made before submitting new ones.
Stay focused on the line of enquiry you are pursuing. Don't let your attention start to drift onto issues of minor relevance.
Think about whether making a request is the best way of achieving what you want. If you have an underlying complaint then it may be better to use the council's Complaints Procedure.
Aim to be flexible if the authority advises that it can't meet the full request on cost grounds and asks you to narrow it down. Try to work with the organisation to produce a streamlined version of the request which still covers the core information that is most importance to you.
Requesting Information - Don'ts
Example
Use offensive or threatening language.
Level unfounded accusations at the council or its staff.
Make personal attacks against council employees.
Use the FOI, EIR or Subject Access process to reopen grievances which have already been fully addressed by the council, or subjected to independent investigation with no evidence of wrongdoing being found.
Make assumptions about how the council organises its information or tell us how to search for the information you want.
Bury your request in amongst lengthy correspondence on other matters or underlying complaints
Use requests as a way of 'scoring points' against the council.
Send 'catch-all' requests for information (such as "please provide me with everything you hold about 'x'") when you aren't sure what specific documents to ask for. If in doubt, try searching on the authority's website or enquiring whether any indexes and file lists are available. Alternatively, ask the authority for some advice and assistance in framing your request.
Submit frivolous or trivial requests: remember that processing any information request involves some cost to the public purse.
Disrupt the council by the sheer weight of requests or the volume of information requested. Whether you are acting alone or in concert with others, this is a clear misuse of the Act and an abuse of your 'right to know'.
Deliberately 'fish' for information by submitting a very broad or random request in the hope it will catch something noteworthy or otherwise useful. Requests should be directed towards obtaining information on a particular issue, rather than relying on pot luck to see if anything of interest is revealed.
Make repeat requests unless circumstances, or the information itself, have changed to the extent that there are justifiable grounds to ask for the information again.

We are committed to putting the customer at the heart of everything we do. To support this ambition we are focussing on four key promises to ensure we can respond to the demands of our customers. These promises are that we will:

  • Make it easy for our customers

  • Treat people with dignity and respect

  • Take responsibility

  • Use customer feedback to improve our services

Unreasonable and Unreasonably Persistent Customer Policy (PDF 190KB)