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Access to information - fees policy

Legislative background

This is concerned with the levying of fees and charges in relation to requests for access to information received in accordance with the following:

  • Freedom of Information Act 2000
  • Environmental Information Regulations 2004
  • Data Protection Act 2018

Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA)

The FOIA & Data Protection (Appropriate Limit & Fees) Regulations 2004 identify the fees and charges public sector bodies are permitted to charge in response to requests for information under the FOIA.

The regulations cover the estimation of costs in association with a request for information, the fee that can be levied and the recovery of postage, printing and photocopying costs where appropriate.

The FOIA fee threshold is £450 which is known as the "appropriate limit". No fee can be levied for requests that are estimated to cost £450 or less (based on 18 hours at the Government's recommended charge of £25 per hour).

If the estimated fee exceeds the appropriate limit, a public authority is not obliged to answer the request. The request would be refused under S12 of the FOIA and the requester will be offered assistance to modify the request to reduce the cost.

A public authority may, at its discretion, offer the requester the opportunity to pay a charge in order for the request to be answered. In this case, a fees notice will be issued and no further action will be taken until a fee is received. If the fee is not received within 3 months of the notice being issued, it will be assumed that the information is no longer required and the case will be closed.

The activities that can be taken into account in estimating the cost of a request are:

  • determining whether the information is held
  • locating & retrieving it, and
  • extracting it

Time taken to consider whether any exemptions apply to all or part of the information cannot be taken into account.

Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR)

EIR requests cannot be refused on the grounds of cost. However, a reasonable charge can be made for environmental information which can include:

  • staff time taken to locate, retrieve and extract the information
  • disbursement costs in transferring the information to the requester (ie, photocopying and postage)

Commercial charges can be made in limited circumstances, such as where information is made available on a commercial basis and charge is necessary to ensure such information continues to be collected and published.

Charges for environmental information cannot be made for the overhead costs of holding the information, or staff time spent reviewing or redacting the information.

Requesters can inspect environmental information in situ free of charge.

Purbeck District Council’s EIR Charging Policy

Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA)

A fee is not normally charged for subject access requests. Find out more about making a subject access request

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