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User Guide

Introduction to the Act

By the Department for Constitutional Affairs

By the Information Commissioner's Office

By the Campaign for FOI (PDF)

BBC ICan guide how to get information from public bodies

Searching for information first

Before putting in a requests search and look at public authority websites in case the information you require in the public domain

Start with: Directgov the main UK Government portal and search engine. The quickfind facility includes an A-Z of central government and local councils

Alternatively you could try the site the Directionlessgov that claims to be a better alternative

Another useful way is too search Google on advanced search and limit by domain (eg. .gov or .ac.uk)

Search the Information Asset register run by HMSO, you can search records of unpublished government information

Useful article from the Guardian Newspaper on FOI and the web (Jan 05)

Publication Schemes

Every public authority has to maintain a publication scheme accordsing to the Freedom of Information Act 2000. There is no currently no special search tool to just search the schemes for the 100,000 or so bodies covered by the Act. However a Google search for the name of the authority and the phrase "publication scheme" should enable you to locate. See this Google example.

You can find useful information in publication schemes - for example Transport for London published the PPP contracts in their scheme.


There is a list of approved schemes on the Information Commisisoner's website


Some authorities are also making disclosure logs available on their websites, listing previous requests and links to the documents released. See: HM Treasury and DCA examples. There is also a disclosure log section of this website

Making a request

Friends of the Earth request generator Generate an automatic request


Guardian guide to FOI Contains sample letters


Fees and charges

Most FOI requests should be free, a public authority cannot deny an FOI request on the grounds of costs up to defined limits (£450 and £600, the costs are:

    a) determining whether it holds the information,

    (b) locating the information, or a document which may contain the information,

    (c) retrieving the information, or a document which may contain the information, and

    (d) extracting the information from a document containing it.

The limits are £450 for all authorities apart from £600 for Central Government. The costs are calculated at £25/hour. If the costs go over these limits it is at the discretion of the authority to answer and they can then charge.

It is worth noting that authorities have been warned by the Information Commissioner that they cannot use poor records management procedures as an excuse for high cost calculations. Any response stating costs or fees should be clearly explained - go back to the authority and ask for more detail on their calculations if you are unhappy.

Separately to the stated copsts, an authority can also charge for commuicating the information e.g.photocopying.

Some public authorities may also waive these charges under a certain level (though this at their discretion) .

Read more on fees and charges

Apppeals and Complaints

Look for the appeal procedures listed by the Public Authority e.g from Foreign Office

You can take your appeal and complain to the Information Commissioner after the internal appeal if you are still wanting to contest a decision


Further help

Your Right to Know

Campaign for Freedom of Information

The Association of Chief Police Officer (ACPO) have produced a Freedom of Information manual that is publicly available.


Publishing documents

If you publish documents you receive under FOI you may publish on a website if copyright allows. Check with the public authority first. For using Crown Copyright material you can apply for a click -use licence