Friday, April 06, 2012

Your primer on charging for Freedom of Information requests

There have been a few comments about suggestions that a fee may be introduced for Freedom of Information requests. And so, I thought that I ought to check, in my capacity as Portfolio Holder for Finance on Creeting St Peter Parish Council. And, as I expected, I'm not going to be losing sleep over any potential requests... But, for your delectation and delight, here is some guidance...

Can a fee be charged for responding to a Freedom of Information request?

Sections 9 and 13 of the Freedom of Information Act allow public authorities to charge for answering requests in certain cases.

The Act provides for public authorities to either charge for or decline requests for information that would cost a public authority either more than £600 for central government or £450 for other public authorities to deal with the request.

This is referred to as the appropriate limit. Public authorities are required to estimate whether a request is likely to breach the 'appropriate limit'.

What activities can be considered when assessing whether the appropriate limit will be exceeded?

The activities are limited to those that an authority can reasonably expects to incur in determining whether it holds the information requested, locating the information or documents containing the information, retrieving such information or documents and extracting the information from the document containing it (including editing or redacting information).

How is the cost of the activities calculated?

£25 is the standard hourly rate that all authorities must use to calculate the staff costs of answering requests. If it is considered appropriate to charge a fee for dealing with a request, consideration may be given towards charging for non-staff costs or disbursements - for instance, photocopying, printing, or posting.

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