Although often more useful for companies and industry, who are free to use requested public sector information for commercial purposes, it is also a time-saving endeavour for journalists and an easy-access route for the public.
The regulation applies to all information requested for by the use of (and defined by) the Freedom of Information Act, but educational establishments are exempt and a similar set of rules are in place.
These regulations do not force public bodies to keep information publically available unless otherwise required. They do, however, force public bodies to (courtesy of the very helpful Portsmouth Council);
- publish a list of the main documents which can be re-used
- publish any standard conditions associated with re-use
- publish any standard charges associated with re-use
- operate a request procedure
- operate a complaints/appeals procedure.
A response is required within 20 days, but since you’ll be forced to specify exactly what documents are being requested and the reasons as to why you are asking for the information, responses should be more prompt than with FOI procedure.
All that is required from you is a written request (e-mail is acceptable), with your name and address, the information being requested and the reasons as to why you’re filing the request.
So look out for listings of documents on your Local Council’s website before you throw out a FOI request, and if you have any worries about pricing or the conditions of use of certain information, this is a good place to look.