Freedom of information exemptions

If information is held but cannot be released to you we will explain why.

We will write and tell you why we are refusing to deal with your request and which exemption applies. We will also give you details of how you can get our decision reassessed. If following reassessment, you are still unhappy with our response, you can ask the Information Commissioner to review our decision.

Under the Freedom of Information Act the council can refuse to supply you with some or all of the information you have asked for if:

  • it would cost us more than £450 to locate and extract the information you have asked for
  • it falls under an exemption

The exemptions fall into two categories: absolute and qualified.

Absolute exemptions

We do not have to disclose information that falls within the description of an absolute exemption. Absolute exemptions include:

  • information is reasonably accessible by other means
  • information relating to security matters
  • information relating to court proceedings and records
  • parliamentary privilege - information which, if disclosed, would infringe parliamentary protocol
  • personal information -  where the information concerns a third party and disclosure would breach the principles of the Data Protection Act 1998
  • information provided in confidence
  • information prohibited by or under legislation, is incompatible with any community obligation, or could be in contempt of court

Qualified exemptions

Some exemptions will only apply if it can be successfully argued that the public interest in withholding the information is greater than the public interest in releasing it. If this isn't the case, the information will have to be disclosed. These are known as 'qualified' exemptions. Qualified exemptions include:

  • information intended for future publication
  • national security
  • defence
  • international relations - where disclosure would be likely to prejudice relations between the UK and any other state
  • relations within the UK
  • the economy
  • investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities - information held for the purposes of investigating or prosecuting criminal offences, including information received from confidential sources in criminal and certain other investigations in connection with law enforcement
  • audit functions
  • formulation of government policy
  • prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs
  • health and safety - where disclosure is likely to endanger the physical or mental health or safety of an individual
  • environmental information, as this should be obtained through the Environmental Information Regulations
  • legal professional privilege - this applies where a claim to legal professional privilege could be maintained in legal proceedings and covers most confidential communications between lawyers and their clients for the purpose of giving or receiving legal advice, and communications whose dominant purpose was the prosecution or defence of legal proceedings
  • commercial interests, such as trade secrets and information which, if disclosed, could prejudice the commercial interests of any person, including the county council

For further information about qualified and absolute exemptions see the Information Commissioner's website or the Ministry of Justice website.