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Publication Scheme

  1. Background
  2. Introduction to the scheme
  3. The role of the Local Government Ombudsman
  4. The right to information
  5. Formats and fees
  6. How to request information
  7. The Information Commissioner
  8. Complaints procedure
  9. Classes of information
  10. Contact us
  11. Guide to information

1. Background

The Freedom of Information Act became law on 30 November 2000. It establishes a right of access to all types of ‘recorded’ information held by public authorities and imposes obligations on public authorities to disclose information, subject to a range of exemptions.  The individual right of access under the Freedom of Information Act came into force on 1 January 2005.

Individuals already had the right to access their own information held on computer, and in some paper files, under the Data Protection Act 1998. This is known as the ‘subject access right’. As far as public bodies are concerned, the Freedom of Information Act extended these rights to allow access to all the types of information they hold whether personal or non-personal. However, the public authority is not required to release information to which any of the exemptions to the Act applies. For a full list of exemptions, log onto www.justice.gov.uk.

The Environmental Information Regulations came into force at the same time as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). They provide a parallel right of access to information to that in the FOIA. They provide a general right of access to environmental information. The definition of ‘environmental information’ is wide and covers such things as waste, emissions, noise, land and historic sites.

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2. Introduction to the scheme

One of the aims of the FOIA is that public authorities should be clear and proactive about the information they will make public. Central to this is the preparation of a publication scheme, setting out:

  • the classes of information we publish and intend to publish as a matter of course
  • the manner in which they are published, and
  • whether the information is available free of charge or on payment.

The classes of information in our scheme are set out in section 9. Details of fees and formats for documents are set out in section 5. If, having searched the scheme, you cannot find what you are looking for, section 6 explains how and where to make a request for items not covered by our publication scheme.

The scheme refers to all kinds of information, which we publish. Publication does not refer solely to printed material. It also includes information in other formats such as electronic documents. If you have internet access, much of the material covered by the scheme is available here on our website.

The classes in the scheme are based on information type, which should be meaningful to users, and no knowledge of the Commission’s organisational structure is required to navigate around the scheme.

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3. The role of the Local Government Ombudsman

The Local Government Ombudsman investigates complaints of injustice arising from maladministration by local authorities and some other authorities and organisations, including education admissions appeal panels and adult social care providers. Her powers are contained in Part III of the Local Government Act 1974. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about most council matters including housing, planning, education, social services, consumer protection, drainage and council tax. The Ombudsman can investigate complaints about how the council has done something. But she cannot question what a council has done simply because someone does not agree with it.

The Ombudsman is Jane Martin. The objective of the Ombudsman is to secure, where appropriate, satisfactory redress for complainants and better administration for the authorities.

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4. The right to information

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) places a number of obligations on public authorities (such as the Ombudsman) about the way in which they provide information. Subject to certain exemptions in the Act, anyone making a request has the right:

  • to be informed whether the public authority holds the information; and,
  • if so, to receive the information (and, where possible, in the manner requested, that is as a copy or summary, or the applicant may ask to inspect a record).

The information contained in the Ombudsman’s complaints files is not available to the public. Section 44 of the FOIA exempts information if its disclosure is prohibited by another Act. The Local Government Act 1974, section 32(2) prohibits an Ombudsman from disclosing information obtained for the purposes of an investigation except in very limited circumstances including the investigation itself and any published report. (However, most information in a complaint file will usually be available to the person who made the complaint via a 'subject access request' under the Data Protection Act.)

There are other exemptions which may apply to information held by the Local Government Ombudsman. These include personal information about staff and some third parties (section 40), information provided to the Ombudsman in confidence where disclosure would be actionable (section 41) and information to which legal professional privilege applies (section 42). In the case of some types of exemption, the authority is required to consider if the public interest in maintaining the exemption in question outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

There is a duty in the Act for public authorities to provide advice or assistance to anyone seeking information (for example in order to explain what is readily available or to clarify what is wanted).

In general, public authorities have to respond to requests within 20 working days. They may charge a fee, which is calculated according to Fees Regulations. Fees may be charged for the time spent in locating or copying records, based on a standard hourly rate, but not in considering requests. If a fee is required, the 20 working days will be extended up to three months until the fee is paid. There is no obligation for a public authority to provide information if the estimated cost of doing so would exceed £450.

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5. Formats and fees

Most items listed under this Publication Scheme are on our website and can be downloaded free of charge from there. Some items are in .pdf format. To read .pdf documents you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is free and available to download on our website.

All our printed publications are available free of charge for single copies. Where charges apply for multiple copies, these are not in the full list of items but are on our publication order form.

Investigation reports on particular complaints are available free of charge for up to five reports, and for £1.00 each for six or more reports (but only when they are not available to be downloaded from this website). We only supply single copies of the same report free of charge.

Typed material, such as investigation reports, can be supplied in large print if requested.

Typed material (other than investigation reports) and print-outs from our website will usually be charged for to cover the cost of printing, photocopying and postage, based on 10p per page plus the cost of second class postage or parcel post depending on the weight of the package to be sent.

Our leaflets Complained to the council? Still not satisfied? is available in Braille, large print, on CD, and in an EasyRead version.  Our leaflet How to complain about a care home or care in your home is available in large print and an EasyRead version.

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6. How to request information

If you wish to request material available under the Publication Scheme, please use the publications order form. If what you require is not available under the scheme, please apply in writing to:

Hilary Pook
Information and Records Manager
Local Government Ombudsman’s office
PO Box 4771
Coventry
CV4 0EH

Tel: 020 7217 4734
Email: foi.officer@lgo.org.uk

When requesting information, please include the following details:

  • your name and address
  • the information or documents you would like, and
  • the way you would like the information sent to you (for example, as hard copy, via email or on a computer disk)

When the information you want is readily available, for example, where it is listed in the Publication Scheme, we aim to provide it within a few days. There will be some cases where it takes a little longer. In such cases, we aim to supply the information within 20 working days.

Additional help

Please let us know if you have difficulty using our service, for example, if you have a disability or if English is not your first language. For instance, if you need an interpreter, we can arrange this.

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7. The Information Commissioner

The Information Commissioner is responsible for overseeing the operation of the Act. He is an independent public official responsible directly to Parliament. As well as approving publication schemes and promoting compliance with the Act, the Commissioner has powers of enforcement.

Christopher Graham
The Information Commissioner
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
WILMSLOW
Cheshire   SK9 5AF

Helpline: 0303 123 1113
Tel:  01625 545700
Fax:  01625 545510

www.ico.org.uk

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8. Complaints procedure

(If you have a complaint about the way your complaint about a council was dealt with by the Local Government Ombudsman, please see the section on Complaints about us, in the Making a complaint section.)

Our policy is to be as open as possible and supply the information you have requested.

If information within a requested document is withheld, the document will be clearly marked to show where information has been removed and the exemption we have used. If we refuse to supply all or part of any other information you have asked for we will write to you giving our reasons for refusal.

If you are not satisfied with the reasons you have the right to appeal. You may also appeal if you believe any charges we have made to supply information are unfair. Your complaint will be dealt with by someone other than the person who dealt with your original request – this will usually be the Commission Operating Officer or the Legal Adviser. In the unlikely event that this is not possible, we will explain why to you. You will be given details of who to contact about any appeal you wish to make when we send our response to your request for information.

How long will it take?

We aim to acknowledge written complaints within five days. We aim to provide a full response to you about your complaint within 20 working days of receiving it. If, for some special reason, we cannot reply within that time, we will let you know and explain why.

What happens if we agree with your complaint?

If we find that we have not responded properly to your request, we will apologise and reconsider the request you made.

If we find we should not have withheld information you asked for, we will send it to you as soon as possible and will tell you how soon you can expect it.

What happens if we do not agree with your complaint?

We will explain to you why we are not going to meet your request. If you are still not satisfied, you can apply to the Information Commissioner. Requests for an independent review by the Information Commissioner should be made in writing to:

Christopher Graham
The Information Commissioner
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
WILMSLOW
Cheshire   SK9 5AF

Helpline: 0303 123 1113
Tel:  01625 545700
Fax:  01625 545510

www.ico.org.uk

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9. Classes of Information

Who we are and what we do

There is a lot of information falling within this class in About us, including Who we are, What we do, Background, Governance and Links with other bodies. Also see Contact us for full contact details.

What we spend and how we spend it

The key documents in this class are the Corporate Plan and our Annual Accounts. See the Governance section in About us and the Annual Report page in Publications. We also have Payments to suppliers of over £250 in monthly spreadsheets. Various papers also go to meetings of the Commission. These papers are also in the Governance section.

What our priorities are and how we are doing

The key documents in this class are the Annual Report, Corporate Plan, customer satisfaction surveys and public awareness surveys. See the Surveys page in About us.

How we make decisions

Policy proposals are included in the Corporate Plan. The procedure for how decisions are made is set out in Management Arrangements. Actual decision making takes place largely at meetings of the Commission, and the Audit Committee. Minutes of the Audit Committee are included as papers to Commission meetings. Agenda, papers and minutes for Commission meetings are in the Governance section in About us.

Our policies and procedures

All our human resources policies are included in the Working for us section, including the Equality and Diversity  and Data Protection policies. [Section under development]

Procedures on investigating complaints are available on the page Guidance on investigations and our staff Guidance on Jurisdiction - which gives guidance on what the Ombudsman can and can't investigate is also available. 

Other policy statements are included in the Governance section.

Charging policy: we only make charges for our training courses - these are detailed in the LA training section - and for some publications. Details of publications charges are included on our publications order form. Some other routine charges are given in section 5 above.

Lists and registers

The Commissioners all sign an annual Register of Interests and these are in the Governance section in About us.

We keep a register of gifts and hospitality and this is available for public inspection at our Coventry office. Contact the Commission Operating Officer for further details.

The services we offer

Advice and guidance on Making a complaint has its own section on this website. There is also specific information for Children and Young People and for Adult Social Care, and a separate Guide for Advisers. Local authorities and other bodies within jurisdiction, as well as members of the public wanting to use our service may be interested in the Ombudsman decisions section, covering the Ombudsman's formal investigtion reports and decision statements, along with other Publications including Annual Reports, Focus Reports, Guidance on good practice, Fact Sheets and leaflets.

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10. Contact us

If you wish to request material under the Publication Scheme, please use the publications order form.

If you have any other general enquiry please ring our helpline on 0300 061 0614 (Please note that calls may be recorded for training and quality purposes).

We will do our best to help people who do not speak English or who have an illness or disability which makes it difficult for them to access our information. We will provide information, as soon as practicable, in large print, in Braille or on CD if requested.

If you have any queries about access to our information or any queries or problems with this website, please contact:

Hilary Pook
Information and Records Manager
Local Government Ombudsman’s office
PO Box 4771
Coventry
CV4 0EH

Email: foi.officer@lgo.org.uk

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Date Updated: 23/04/14