Freedom of Information

Freedom of Information requests (FOIs)

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI) gives people a general right of access to information held by public authorities. Information held by public authorities should be available and accessible to everyone.

The act was introduced to help bring about a culture of openness within the public sector and give the public a better understanding of how authorities carry out their duties; why they make the decisions they do; and how they spend public money.

Every public authority has two main duties under the FOI act:

  • to adopt and maintain a publication scheme, overseen by an independent Information Commissioner, which sets out:
    - details of information it will routinely make available;
    - how the information can be obtained;
    - whether there is any charge for it.
  • to comply with all requests for the information, unless there is an exemption from disclosure. The authority normally has a maximum of 20 working days to respond to the request; however there are circumstances when this time limit can be extended.

Environmental Information Regulations (EIR)

In addition to this, Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) gives members of the public the right to access environmental information held by public authorities and those bodies carrying out a public function.

Environmental information covers information on the state of the environment such as:

  • air, water, soil, land, flora and fauna (including human beings), diversity, genetically modified organisms
  • information on emissions and discharges, noise, energy, radiation, waste and other such substances
  • laws, policies, contracts and analyses relating to such environments
  • the state of the human health and safety
  • contamination of the food chain
  • cultural sites and built structures (as they may be affected by environmental factors)
  • factors affecting the above elements such as substances, energy, noise, radiation or waste, emissions, discharges into the environment.

How do I make an FOI or EIR request?

If there is something you would like to know about the Council’s activities, take the following steps:

  • Search the disclosure log  to see answers to previous requests for information – what you're looking for might already be here 
  • If you can’t find the information you are seeking on the log, you can submit your request via our online FOI request form or via post at:

    Complaints and Information Governance Team
    Directorate of Governance

    Tower Hamlets Town Hall
    160 Whitechapel Road
    E1 1BJ

All requests must provide a valid email or postal address for us to reply to.

When you submit your request, give as much detail as possible to help us correctly identify the information you are seeking. If we do need more detail from you to identify the information, we will contact you.

Before you submit your request, we recommend that you read the FOI FAQs or visit the Information Commissioners Office website.

How long does it take?

For both kinds of request, we will have 20 working days to respond. However under the EIR, if the request is complex and large, the time period may be extended up to a maximum of 40 working days. We will advise you if we are likely to need to extend the time.

Exceptions and exemptions

For both of these requests, there are legal reasons why information may not be released to you. These are known as exceptions/exemptions. If we do not release information to you because an exception/exemptions applies we will explain why.

Requests under FIO may be refused because:

  • 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.

Requests under EIR may be refused because:

  • the information is not held
  • the request is manifestly unreasonable
  • the request is too general
  • the request is for unfinished documents/data
  • the request is for internal communications.