How long does the public authority have to respond to my request?
Public authorities have 20 working days to respond to freedom of information (FOI), environmental information, or re-use requests.
Can a public authority refuse my request?
Yes. There are a number of circumstances when a public authority can refuse a request for information.
When a public authority refuses or partially refuses a request, they must clearly explain why. If they do not explain this, you can go back to them and ask for clarity.
The most common reasons for refusing a request are:
- the public authority doesn't have the information you requested;
- your request will cost more than the limit;
- the information contains personal data; or
- the information is commercially sensitive.
Vexatious or unreasonable requests
The public authority can refuse your request if they think that you are making the request in a threatening way. They can also refuse if they think you’re making the request to purposefully create unnecessary work or disruption.
If a public authority estimates that complying with your request(s) would cost more than £600 (if they are part of central government, Parliament and the armed forces) or £450 (for other public authorities) – then they can refuse your request.
Being as specific as possible in your request helps reduce the cost of responding to it and you are then more likely to get the information.
There are a number of other valid reasons why a public authority may refuse or partially refuse your request for information. We call these ‘exemptions’.
If you received a response to a request where a public authority used an exemption, you may want to read our guidance to understand whether they used it correctly. This guidance is for organisations, but you should still find it helpful.