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The Freedom of Information Act sets out a series of exemptions (23 in total), some of which are 'absolute' and some of which are 'qualified'. There are 12 exceptions from disclosure in the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR), all of which are qualified.

Some records may not be made available if they are covered by an exemption or exception. This could be to protect confidential information or for legal reasons, for example, if by releasing the information we would breach another piece of legislation such as the Data Protection Act.

If the information requested is covered by an absolute exemption, the Council does not have to consider disclosing it in the public interest, nor does it have to state if the information in question is held.

If the Council believes that the information is covered by a qualified exemption or exception, it must apply the public interest test. This test favours disclosure where a qualified exemption or an exception applies. In such cases, the information may be withheld only if the Council considers that the public interest in withholding the information is greater than the public interest in disclosing it.

Examples of exemptions

(a) Absolute

  • Information accessible by other means
  • Information supplied by, or relating to, bodies dealing with security matters
  • Court records including records of tribunals and inquiries
  • Personal data or information
  • Information provided in confidence

(b) Qualified

  • Investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities
  • Information likely to prejudice law enforcement
  • Information likely to endanger the health and safety of any individual
  • Information in respect of which a claim to legal professional privilege could be maintained
  • Commercial interests and trade secrets

Where the Council uses an exemption or exception to withhold information, you may seek a review of the decision.