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Freedom of information

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 gives every person the right to access information recorded and held by local councils subject to certain conditions and exemptions. 

This information is typically how money has been spent, how the council works, proposals or decisions made.

Please note the Freedom of Information Act does not cover access to personal Information, access to personal information falls under the Data Protection Act

The intention of the Act is to provide a culture of greater openness and accountability for public organisations.

South Tyneside Council has a duty to respond to information requests within 20 working days and will be able to tell you if information is available.

View our Freedom of Information policy (currently under review)193.91KB

How to make a Freedom of Information request

To submit a Freedom of Information request please email

Please clearly state: 

  • your contact details 
  • a full description of the documents you require

If your request is too broad we will have to seek further clarification, which will only increase the time it takes to process your request. Be precise as to the format you wish to receive the information in e.g. spread sheet, table, CD etc.

Can I request the information to be provided in a specific format?

Your request should specify the format you wish to receive the information in, so far as this reasonably practicable for e.g. Braille, large type, audio, or in another language. Any fees levied will be advised to you accordingly before the request is processed.

Can I reuse the information provided?

The supply of documents under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 is still protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1998. Applicants do not have an automatic right to re-use the information for commercial gain (e.g. by making multiple copies, publishing and issuing copies to the public) but are able to use the information for purposes of research and non commercial purposes, (private study, criticism, review and news reporting).

How do I find the information in the Council's Publication Scheme?

The council's Publication Scheme contains seven classes of information. 

How do I know if the information requested is held?

An acknowledgement letter will be sent advising you accordingly if the information is held.

How long does it take to process Freedom of Information requests?

We have a legal duty to respond to all information requests within 20 working days and to confirm or deny whether the information is held. Delayed responses beyond our control may incur for the following reasons:

  • You have not supplied accurate data. If more information is requested the 20 day period will be suspended and will not recommence until the correct information is provided.
  • A fee is required in advance before the information is supplied. Customers have up to three moths to pay the fee required before the request is redeemed and refused
  • Where the time allowed includes the time taken to consider any applicable exemptions and whether disclosure is in the interest of the public domain.

How many Freedom of Information requests can I make?

The Act does not specifically limit the number of requests that you can make but the authority does have the right to refuse vexatious or repeated requests within a 12 month period.

How much does it cost to make a Freedom of Information request?

Most of the information available in the Publication Scheme is free of charge. However, if the cost of retrieving and supplying the information exceeds the ceiling limit of £450 or takes up to two and a half working days of manual labour to process then the authority is not obliged to process the request. Postage and photocopying costs may also apply but these would be advised accordingly.

What happens if another body holds the information for my Freedom of Information request?

If another public body holds the information we have a duty to immediately transfer the request to the appropriate public body and to advise you accordingly.

What happens if my Freedom of Information request is refused?

A request for information can only be refused if it falls under one of the exemptions of the FOI Act. If your request is refused we will send you a refusal notice advising you of the exemption that applies and how the Public Interest Test has been determined if a qualified exemption has been cited for refusal. Notification will also be sent advising you of the Council's Internal Review process should you wish to appeal against our original decision.

What if the information I want is not available in the Publication Scheme?

If the information you require is not available in the Council's Publication Scheme then a written request will need to be made (emails and faxes included). Before submitting a FOI Request it is suggested you consult the exemption table to determine if your request falls within the exemptions of the FOI Act. If it does the information you require is likely to not be eligible for release.

What is a Publication Scheme?

Section 19 of the Act requires all public authorities to proactively make their information routinely available to the public by adopting and maintaining a Publication Scheme.

A Publication Scheme is a guide to the Council's information. Its purpose is to:

  • Specify whether information described in the scheme is publicly available for instance via the Council's website or whether copies will be supplied on request in writing.
  • If the information provided under the scheme will be provided free of charge or at a cost described in the scheme or advised accordingly.
  • The format in which the information is available e.g print, tape, video etc.

What is the 'public interest test' in the Freedom of Information Act?

The Public Interest Test determines the impact of making the information public and whether disclosure may cause harm upon its release. In such cases information may be withheld if the public authority considers that the public interest in withholding the information is greater than the public being made aware of it.

What is the Freedom of Information Act 2000?

From the 1st January 2005 the Freedom of Information Act gives you right of access to public information held by local bodies and authorities, subject to the restrictions and exemptions of the Act. The Act gives you access to the following types of information reports, emails, minutes of meetings etc. which may be of interest to you.

Who can make a Freedom of Information request?

Anyone in the world can make a freedom of information request regardless of his or her age, nationality or location.

Who decides what information is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act?

The Freedom of Information Act includes a list of exemptions that must be considered when evaluating requests. There are 23 exemptions to the FOI Act, some of which are absolute and some qualified.

If an absolute exemption applies, the information is not permitted for disclosure. For example any information considered personal data or information that relates to commercial activities, national security, defence may result in a breach of confidence.

If a qualified exemption applies then the information is subject to the public interest test.

Who does the Freedom of Information Act apply to?

The FOI Act applies to the following public bodies:

  • Central Government
  • Local Authorities
  • Public Bodies
  • NHS Service
  • Police
  • Schools, colleges and universities
  • Fire Service
  • Probation Service
  • Police
  • Armed forces

Can I appeal against the final decision made about my Freedom of Information request?

Yes. You can apply for an internal review, which is chaired by an independent panel of senior management not involved in the original decision. All appeals must be submitted within 20 working days of you receiving your refusal notice.

How do I make a formal complaint if I'm dissatisfied with the final decision of my Freedom of Information request?

You can write to the Information Commissioner to ask for an independent review of your case. The contact details are as follows:

FOI Compliance Team (complaints) 
Wycliffe House 
Water lane 

Tel: 01625 545745 

All correspondence to the Information Commissioner must clearly state your FOI reference and the reasons for your appeal.

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