All citizens have a right to know what Gateshead Council is doing, how we are doing it and how to take part. You already have a right to access some of the information produced by the council. This includes the right to attend most meetings, with access to most of the agendas, reports, minutes and background papers of these meetings and our forward plan.
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 extends your rights and requires us to produce a Publication Scheme detailing the information that we publish regularly.
The Act came into force on 1st January 2005.
See also: Re-use of Public Sector Information
What is a publication scheme?
A publication scheme is a text document describing the many different types of information published by the council in a clear and structured way. Information is classified by type, saving you time and effort by making it easier for you to find what you want.
It is not a full list of all our publications, because these change all the time. We are developing lists of publications currently available under each heading to make the scheme even easier to understand.
The Information Commissioner approved our Publication Scheme for the period 28 February 2003 to 28 February 2007.
You can request a printed copy from:
Information Rights Officer,
Legal and Corporate Services,
Tel: 0191 433 2192.
What about information that isn't listed in the publication scheme?
From January 2005 you will have a general right of access different types of information held by the council. This right covers information recorded in any form and obtained from any source, not just documents published by the council.
Access requests must be made in writing and you may have to pay a fee. The government has not set the fee yet but it is likely to be 10% of the cost of locating and retrieving the information plus the actual cost of photocopying and postage.
Public authorities like the council must respond to requests within 20 working days confirming:
whether any information is held;
a copy of all information that can be released;
the exemptions applying to any information withheld.
Download the Information Request Form (54K Microsoft Word document)
Why can the council withhold information?
The Act is one of a number of national policies to modernise government and encourage more open and accountable decision making but there are some exemptions to the right of access.
The council can withhold information like details of legal proceedings, information provided in confidence or covered by the Data Protection Act 1998.
For requests made after January 2005 we do not have to provide information if the cost of locating and retrieving it is £450 or more and we can refuse requests from anyone who repeatedly asks for the same or similar information.
If you have any questions about your rights under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 please contact the council's Information Rights Officer.
Contact: Information Rights Officer, Legal and Corporate Services, Civic Centre, Regent Street, Gateshead, NE8 1HH. Tel: 0191 433 2192, Fax: 0191 433 2103
You can also get information leaflets and advice from the links below.