Freedom of Information (FOI)

Information

What is the Freedom of Information Act?

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 came into full force on 1st January 2005. The Act allows people access to information that is held by public authorities.

What are my rights under the Freedom of Information Act?

The Act allows you to request information from Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority in writing.

This could be via letter, fax or email. The request should have your contact details on it and a description of the information that you are requesting.

Anyone can put in a request for information to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority - from anywhere in the world.

When submitting a request, you do not have to give a reason for requesting the information.

You can request that the information to be in any form and/or format.

What are Merseyside Fire and Rescue's Authority's obligations under the Freedom of Information Act?

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority's obligations under the Freedom of Information Act are to:

  • Acknowledge receipt of your request for information.
  • Deal with your request for information within 20 working days.
  • Inform you if we hold the information requested and, if no exemption applies, supply you with the information.
  • Provide advice and assistance to those making a request or wishing to make a request for information.
  • Inform you if the information is publicly available and inform you where you can obtain the information.

What is the Publication Scheme?

The Freedom of Information Act requires all public authorities to create and maintain a Publication Scheme. The Publication Scheme is a guide to what information is being held by public authorities. The purpose of a Publication Scheme is to persuade public authorities to engage more with the public by providing details of the information available.

You can view a hard copy of the Publication Scheme at your local community fire station. Information that is available on the Publication Scheme is exempt under the Freedom of Information Act, as it is information that is already accessible to the applicant by other means.

Will I be charged for the information requested?

For the majority of requests under the Freedom of Information Act there will not be a charge. However, if dealing with a request exceeds 18 hours or more, we are not bound to deal with the request. If this does happen, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority will get in touch to see if you wish to refine your request.

If there is a charge for supplying information requested, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority will contact you informing you about the charges. Information will only be released to you when we have received payment.

What are Exemptions?

Whilst the Freedom of Information Act allows the public access to information held by public authorities, there are a number of Exemptions that public authorities can apply to prevent the release of information. Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority may on occasion release information with sections removed if an Exemption applies which prevents the information being released. Within the Act there are two categories of exemption:

Absolute Exemption

An authority may simply refuse to provide the information citing the Exemption and reasons why it applies. This category of Exemption includes:

  • Information accessible to the applicant by other means.
  • Information supplied by or relating to bodies dealing with security matters.
  • Court records.
  • Parliamentary privilege.
  • Personal information.
  • Information supplied in confidence.
  • Information subject to a prohibition on disclosure.

Qualified Exemptions (Exemptions where the public interest test applies)

If the information that is requested falls into one of the categories listed below, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority has to decide whether to release or withhold the information. We have to decide whether it is in the public interest to release the information.

The only time Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority will apply this Exemption is if it believes that releasing such information would cause harm or discrimination. If it is decided that a Qualified Exemption applies, we will explain the reason why the Exemption has been applied to the information you have requested.

There are 16 Qualified Exemptions:

  • Information intended for future publication
  • National security
  • Defence
  • International relations
  • Relations within the United Kingdom
  • The economy
  • Investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities
  • Law enforcement
  • Audit
  • Formulation of government policy
  • Prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs
  • Communications with Her Majesty, etc. and Honours
  • Health and safety
  • Environmental information
  • Legal professional privilege
  • Commercial interests

If one of the above Exemptions applies to the information you have requested, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority will inform you.