Freedom of Information Act
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) applies to Slough Borough Council. This page sets out how the authority will approach the handling and disclosure of information relating to Suppliers and Contractors.
The FOIA gives everyone the right of access to all recorded information held by, or on behalf, of Slough Borough Council, unless one of the exemptions set out in the Act applies (see below).
The request for information can originate from anywhere in the world, and can be made by any individual, company, journalist or community group. The request must be in writing or another “recordable” format (e.g. email). You must provide a name and address for correspondence and specify the information required.
Information covered by the act
The FOIA is fully retrospective, which means that it covers all information already held in a recordable format by Slough Borough Council, irrespective of how old it is. FOIA therefore covers information contained in a hard copy (letters, paper files), electronic files (including email), video and audio formats (including CCTV), as well as any information created after 1st January 2005, subject to certain exemptions, detailed below.
Response to a request
Slough Borough Council ihas a statutory duty to initially confirm or deny that it holds the information. It must thencommunicate the information within 20 working days of receipt unless one of the exemption applies. This period starts from the day after the request is received.
Information for suppliers
Information submitted as part of a tender to the authority will this information be disclosed if a relevent FOIA request is recevied, unless it is covered by an exemption.
If Slough Borough Council received a request under the Act and that request includes information held by a Supplier or Contractor on behalf of Slough Borough Council, the Supplier or Contractor concerned must comply with the Act and supply that information to Slough Borough Council for it to be able to communicate a response.
It is Slough Borough Council's decision whether or not to disclose contractual information, but it will consult to take the views of Suppliers/ Contractors into account when making a decision under FOIA.
The Supplier/ Contractor will be expected to supply that information in good time to ensure that Slough Borough Council does not breach the Act.
Suppliers / Contractors who think they will be affected by the FOIA as they hold information on behalf of Slough Borough Council should contact their principal contact at Slough Borough Council as soon as reasonably practicable if they have concerns about any such request.
Slough Borough Council strongly recommends that if a Supplier / Contractor provide information they believe to be exempt under FOIA, it must identify for Slough Borough Council the exact nature and location of this information in their tender.
FOIA requests to suppliers or contractors
If a FOIA request comes directly to a supplier or contracter, this must be communicated without delay to email@example.com.
The team will deal with the request (if applicable) under its Freedom of Information policy. Suppliers and Contractors should not deal with FOIA requests themselves, even if it may relate to information it holds on behalf of Slough Borough Council or vice versa
There are two types of exemptions: absolute exemptions and qualified exemptions.
Absolute exemptions include information that is reasonably obtainable elsewhere, information provided in confidence and where release of the information would amount to contempt of court. Where information falls within the terms of an Absolute Exemption, Slough Borough Council may refuse to disclose the information. In some circumstances, the council can also refuse to confirm or deny whether the information exists.
Qualified exemptions include information intended for future publication and information relevant to criminal investigations and criminal/civil proceedings. Note that qualified exemptions will only apply in circumstances where the authority can prove that there would be a real and significant damage (prejudice) to the authority or to other people if the information were made public. This is known as the Public Interest Test.
Public Interest Test
Public interest does not mean what is of interest to the public but rather, what is in the interest of the public. This will evolve with time and changing circumstances.
Slough Borough Council must consider whether, in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in withholding the information is outweighed by the public interest in disclosing the exemption. If the two are evenly balanced, the presumption will be in favor of disclosure.
If there is a confidentiality clause in the contract to prevent disclosure, the confidentiality obligations in contracts will be subject to Slough Borough Council statutory obligations under FOIA.
There will have to be genuine commercial and/or legal reason as to why information should be treated as confidential. Information provided in confidence will only be exempt if disclosure of that information would give rise to an actionable breach of confidence.
This is a narrow and specific legal exemption, which applies in very limited circumstances defined by the courts through complex case law and you should therefore not assume this exemption shall apply just because information is confidential and it is an absolute exemption.
Information likely to be disclosed under FOIA:
- standard contractual terms
- Slough Borough Council general procurement/ commercial activities
- nature of the supplies, service or works which is the subject of the contract including appropriate parts of any Invitation to Tender
- overall contract price on particular supplies, services or works
- performance standards in a particular contract
- completion or administration of a particular contract.
Information likely to be refused under FOIA (subject to exemptions applying and no overriding public interest):
- trade secrets
- sensitive commercial interests which would prejudice either Slough Borough Council or Suppliers/ Contractors, e.g. unit prices of goods or information that could identify profit margins
- personal privacy where disclosure of information would breach the Data Protection Act 1998
- information given in confidence where disclosing would constitute an actionable breach of confidence (i.e. technical business information).
For further information, please email the Freedom of Information (FOI) team on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01753 875244.