Freedom of Information FAQs

What can you ask for?

You can ask for any information held by us in any form. This includes information held in paper, electronic and any other formats.

We then have a duty to supply it unless one or more of a number of statutory exemption applies – for example if:

  • it is a matter covered by data protection legislation
  • it is available under our publication scheme
  • it might be considered prejudicial to the effective conduct of public affairs.

Must you make a FOI application to get information from public bodies?

No. Public bodies, including the council, make information available to the public through information leaflets, publications and responses to enquiries.

FOI provides an additional source by facilitating access to information not routinely or readily available.

How to make a FOI request?

Most information about the council can be found on our website or via our publication scheme.

If the information you are seeking is not on any of these then you can search our disclosure log which provides a list of information that has been provided in response to FOI requests.

If you cannot find the information you are seeking on the disclosure log then you can make a FOI request by:

  • filling in our online FOI request
  • in writing:

    Complaints and Information Governance Team
    Directorate of Governance

    Tower Hamlets Town Hall
    160 Whitechapel Road
    E1 1BJ

    Tel: 020 7364 4161

All requests must be in writing and a valid correspondence email or postal address must be provided.

You should give as much detail as possible to help us identify the information you are seeking, though we will be happy to assist you with this. If we need more detail from you to identify the information, we will contact you.

Will there be a charge?

If the council can provide the information you have requested within 18 hours of staff time there will be no charge for staff time. 18 hours is the equivalent to a total cost of £450 using the Government’s hourly rate of £25 per hour as set out in the regulations.

The only other charge that might be taken into account in the cost calculation is for the cost of photocopying and postage (disbursements) as explained below.

The 18 hours can include time to:

  • identifying that the council holds the information
  • retrieving the information
  • extracting the information including reading, summarising or editing the information.

If we believe it will take longer than 18 hours or cost more than £450 to comply with the request, then the council will calculate the estimated time and other disbursements such as:

  • putting the information into your required format
  • photocopying and printing
  • postage and other forms of communication
  • translation when this has to be done specially.

To ensure that access to information is equally available to all, we have decided that where a request costs more than £450 to process, we will not process it. We will then ask you to reduce the scope of the request to bring down the hours/ cost of the request, and will try to identify how this can be done. If you refuse to change the scope of the request, we will not process the request.

Types of request

Complex requests

Some requests may be so complex, perhaps involving searching the archives for historic data, that the cost of staff time involved in identifying whether the information is held alone amounts to more than £450.  In these circumstances we are under no obligation to comply with the request and will inform you of this.

Vexatious requests

We are not obliged to respond to vexatious requests. A request that is designed to cause inconvenience, harassment or expense can be considered vexatious, and we are entitled to consider the effect as well as the intention of the request. The Information Commissioner’s Office has issued advice to say that "if a reasonable person would conclude that the main effect of the request would be disproportionate inconvenience or expense, then it will be appropriate to treat the request as being vexatious".

Repeated or similar requests

Some requests can be considered together under the terms of the Act to estimate the total cost of compliance.  This applies when two or more requests about similar information are made by one person or different people who seem to be working together or in a campaign. We will let you know if this is the case.

How will we respond?

We can respond by post, email or arranged personal collection, depending on what you prefer. We will provide you with the information requested within 20 working days where we can, or tell you why we are unable to do so. If for any reason there is likely to be a delay, we will let you know. 

What you can do if you are unhappy about a decision on your request?

If you wish to complain about any aspect of the handling of your FOI request you should first contact the Information Governance and Complaints team to request a review.

Make a complaint



If you are still dissatisfied with the council’s response to your complaint, you have the option to raise the issue with the Information Commissioner at:

Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow Cheshire

Tel: 0303 123 1113

Visit the Information Commissioner's website for more information.

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