How to raise an FoI request
A couple of people have asked me about raising Freedom of Information (FoI) requests about the Diocese of Leicester Academies Trust to clarify information they may have seen, or maybe not seen. Things like the lack of any Board Minutes, or the accurate publication of Director and Trustee information. Or remuneration packages for Executives. There are a range of other things that people would like to know too.
Well, raising a FoI request is simple. Harking back to my days of watching Blue Peter..... here is one I raised earlier!
You don't have to start with "I am writing to request information under the Freedom of Information Act, 2000", but I like to. It makes it nice and clear.
1. Ask for something specific. If you ask for something vague then you will get a response asking you to clarify what you need, or a response to say it will take too long to collate the information. You could ask something like "what is Donna Moulds' combined salary across the Oval Learning Trust and DLAT" for example. Simple. Easy to answer. But not currently in the public domain for some reason.
Another perfectly reasonable question could be something like "could you please confirm your budget forecast figures for the 2018-19, 2020-21 and 2021-22 years for DLAT and Swinford School". These should be readily available. I would also expect them to be known by those at the top of DLAT.
2. Be nice. It's a letter. We can get a bit ranty at times, but an FoI request needs to avoid being vexatious.
3. Provide your contact details. You need to be able to receive the response when it is ready.
4. Read it before you press 'Send'. You might be a bit hot under the collar when you type it. If needs be, go get a brew, come back to the email and re-read it. Is it calm and to the point? If not then have another go.
It's really that easy - give it a go. If you don't get a response within the required timescale then you can complain. And if you don't get a response to your complaint (see earlier blog from me as an example) then you can complain to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) and ask them to investigate. The ICO has a general duty to investigate complaints from members of the public who believe that an authority has failed to respond correctly to a request for information. They will investigate it as they have a legal duty to do so. They can also issue a decision notice and require the public body/ Academy Trust to reply. They can also issue financial penalties.
I've had the pleasure of dealing with many FoI requests as a Civil Servant - they can be a pain in the bum, but they are a great way of keeping things nice and transparent. We need DLAT to be open and transparent with us, so get writing!