Access to information
We are committed to operating openly and will meet all reasonable requests for information in order to maintain a high level of public trust and confidence in our organisation. We welcome the rights of access to information which are set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
Our commitment to openness is balanced by the need for us to maintain high standards of care in handling personal and confidential information about individuals, and the need to maintain confidentiality where disclosure would not be in the public interest and where disclosure is not permitted under the legislation that covers the Ombudsmen’s role, the Local Government Act 1974.
We publish extensive information about our organisation and how we deal with complaints here on our website. Links to details of our various printed publications are shown on the left of this page. Full details of all information available is listed in our Publication Scheme or see our Guide to Information.
Information on how to get hold of information is given in How to make a request.
Or if you just want to order one of our printed publications, go to the order form.
If you are unhappy with how we response to your request for information, you can contact the Information Commissioner’s office.
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Data Protection Act 1998
Your right to information
You have the right of access to information we hold about you under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). This is known as the ‘subject access right’.
The DPA concerns personal data held in electronic records and relevant manual filing systems. ‘Personal data’ is defined as data which relate to a living individual who can be identified:
- from these data, or
- from these data and other information which is in the possession of, or is likely to come into the possession of, the ‘data controller’ (the person who decides how and why the data is processed).
It includes any expression of opinion about the individual and any indication of the intentions of the data controller of any other person in respect of the individual (s1(1)).
A ‘relevant manual filing system’ has been defined as one where the records are organised either by reference to individuals or so that specific information relating to an individual is readily accessible.
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The data protection principles
The DPA sets out eight data protection principles with which all people controlling personal data (‘data controllers’) must comply. These say that personal data must be:
- processed fairly and lawfully
- obtained for specified and lawful purposes and not further processed in an incompatible manner
- adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to those purposes;
- accurate and, where necessary, kept up-to-date, and
- processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects
and that personal data must not be:
- kept longer than is necessary for the purposes for which they are processed, or
- transferred outside the European Economic Area unless adequate protection for the data in the receiving state is ensured.
It also states that we must:
- take appropriate security measures in respect of personal data including preventing unauthorised disclosure.
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What you are entitled to:
As a ‘data subject’ you have a right of access to personal data held about you. This includes:
- a description of the data being processed
- the purposes for which it is being processed
- any potential recipients of the data
- the source of the data if this is known, and
- the identity of the data controller.
Note that you are entitled only to the information itself, rather than to copies of the actual documents or records in which it is contained.
Disclosure of some information we hold may be exempt from particular provisions of the DPA. This includes circumstances where disclosure would be likely to prejudice the proper discharge of our function. You will be informed if an exemption applies to your request.
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Freedom of Information Act 2000
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gives you the right of access to all types of ‘recorded’ information we hold. It imposes obligations on us to disclose information, but subject to a range of exemptions. One of the exemptions covers information gathered by us during the course of an investigation. The individual right of access under FIOA came into force in January 2005. One of the aims of the Act is to make public authorities, including the Commission, clear and proactive about the information they will make public. Central to this is our Publication Scheme which sets out what we will publish as a matter of course, in what formats, and whether there is charge for it. We published our Publication Scheme in February 2004, and revised it in January 2009.
Subject to the exemptions in the Act, you have the right:
- to be informed whether we hold the information you are seeking, and
- if so, to receive the information (and, where possible, in the format requested).
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The Environmental Information Regulations
The Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) provide a parallel right of access to information to that in the FOIA specifically relating to environmental information. The definition of ‘environmental information’ is wide and covers such things as waste, emissions, noise, land and historic sites.
How to make a request
If you have made a complaint to the Ombudsman, and you wish to request information relating to your complaint, you should contact the investigator dealing with your case, who will be able to put you in touch with the relevant Assistant Ombudsman, who will deal with your request.
If you wish to request other information, not relating to a specific complaint, you should contact Hilary Pook, Communications and Records Manager, at:
Local Government Ombudsman’s office
London SW1P 4QP
Requests for personal information made under the DPA, and requests made under the FOIA need to be in writing. Requests for environmental information do not need to be in writing but it is helpful if these are also written. When we receive a request, we will acknowledge receipt of it within a couple of days. There are different time limits set down for us to deal with requests for information under DPA and under FOIA and EIR, but generally we will try meet requests within the shorter deadline of 20 working days.
If you have a general enquiry about our service please contact us:
- on our advice line on 0300 061 0614 or 0845 602 1983 (Please note that calls may be recorded for training and quality purposes), or
- by filling in the enquiry form.
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The Information Commissioner
The operation of the DPA, FIOA and EIR is supervised by the Information Commissioner. If you make a request for information and believe we have not dealt with it properly, you can complain to the Information Commissioner. Further details of the role and powers of the Information Commissioner can be obtained by contacting his office, or on his website:
Cheshire SK9 5AF
Tel: 01625 545700
Fax: 01625 545510
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Date Updated: 10/08/11