Part 5 – Publication Scheme
Under the FOIA section 19 every public authority subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 is required to adopt and maintain a publication scheme A publication scheme is a commitment to routinely and proactively provide information to the public. As a result of the Publication Scheme Development and Maintenance Initiative the ICO introduced a model publication scheme that all public sector organizations’ were required to adopt from 1 January 2009. [note 1]
Public authorities must produce a guide to the information they hold and which is contained within any of the scheme’s seven classes. Authorities are expected to ensure that the information can be easily identified and accessed by the general public and must commit to reviewing and updating their information guide and its contents on a regular basis. The ICO will regularly review the model scheme and guidance documents.
Information may be made available for download from the website, electronically, in hard copy, or by making it available for inspection. The means by which it is made available must be specified in the guide to information, along with the amount of any charge.
Where information is only available electronically, a printed copy should be available on request for those without internet and email. Account must also be taken of The Service’s obligations under equality legislation and, where relevant, legislation requiring information to be made available in languages other than English.
Information in the publication scheme guide should be available routinely. Exemptions should not be used to withhold information in the guide, as a document should only be included if The Service has already decided that it can be disclosed. Requests for information in the guide cannot be refused on the grounds that they are vexatious or exceed the cost limit.
The Service's publication scheme is available from our web-site and the majority of information can be accessed electronically. However, the publication scheme guide tells users what is available, rather than being the mechanism through which information must be accessed. Staff should know how to give out this information promptly when it is requested, or direct requesters to the website.
(Amended December 2010)
The FOIA states that a publication scheme should be reviewed from time to time. The Service is also responsible for reviewing and maintaining its guide to information and the data it contains.
The documents and information covered by the publication scheme is produced by many individuals working across The Service. As part of good records-management systems, Directorates must update published material and remove outdated information promptly. The Directorate which supplied the original documents for publications is responsible for ensuring its currency and actively removing or archiving and replacing any outdated documents.
The FOIA/DPA Compliance Manager in Technical Section (Jim Digby) should be informed of any new or amended material that needs to be included in the publications scheme. The Compliance Manager will be responsible for liaising with the Web Publishing Team in Strategy, Planning and Communications Directorate to ensure new or amended information is published.
Former working documents that have been archived in accordance with good records-management practice are not required to be made available as part of the publication scheme.
If a public authority is required to maintain a register and to make the information in it available for the public to inspect, the existing provisions covering access will usually be adequate. However public authorities are expected to publicise which registers they hold and how the public can access the information in them. The Service includes details of the public registers it maintains within the guide to the publication scheme and the scheme itself.
The FOIA requires public authorities to make it clear whether a charge is made for material which they routinely make available. The Fees Regulations do not apply to information that is routinely made available unlike information that is disclosed in response to a specific request. Where fees are charged they must be calculated separately from charges made under the Fees Regs.
The FOIA does not specify how these charges should be calculated. However any charge should be justified, clear and transparent.
The Service does not levy any charges for information which it makes available through the publication scheme. However, The Service's internal guidance manuals (e.g. the Technical Manual) are not available in their entirety in a paper format due to the prohibitive costs of production.