How we handle information: The Freedom of Information Act 2000 and Data Protection Act 1998 at Hampshire County Council
Hampshire County Council believes that decisions should be made openly and visibly, and that all information should be freely available unless there is good reason for it to be kept confidential.
The County Council is accountable to the people of Hampshire. Reports made to meetings of the County Council, the Cabinet and committees are publicly available, together with any background documents consulted, unless the information is confidential. Similarly, decisions made by the Cabinet and executive members with responsibility for different services, such as Children's Services or Adult Services, are published in advance so that people can be kept informed.
You can also, for example, see Ofsted reports on our schools. When we carry out public consultation - for example in connection with a planning application for waste disposal or a proposal to close a school - the feedback we receive is normally available for you to see.
Formal meetings of the County Council, executive members, the Cabinet and committees are held in public. You may attend the meetings and listen to discussions.
Occasionally an item on the agenda may be confidential. The Cabinet must follow a certain procedure if a report is to remain confidential. The meeting must pass a resolution to exclude the press and public from that part of the meeting. There will always be a public record of the decision even if a matter was considered in confidence.
You can find out when meetings of the County Council, the Cabinet and committees are scheduled and what is on the agenda from our information centres or by calling the contact centre. The information centres hold copies of the forward plan which lists the key decisions that need to be made in the coming four months, plus agenda, reports, minutes and decisions. The forward plan can also be viewed online. We also keep the press informed. Past records of County Council proceedings are held at the Hampshire Record Office.
Where possible, we will let you photocopy papers and documents but we may make a small charge to cover costs of our administration. We must, however, respect copyright so we cannot let you copy maps, plans, photographs or documents which are in our files but for which we do not own the copyright.
The Data Protection Act 1998 protects personal data by setting rules and conditions which all users of personal details, including Hampshire County Council, must obey when obtaining and using information about you. We keep personal information so that we can provide the people of Hampshire with the services they require and we maintain our records according to the Act.
The Act gives you several rights:
- right to make a 'subject access request' (section 7 to 9 of the Act)
- right to prevent processing likely to cause damage or distress (section 10 of the Act)
- right to prevent processing for the purposes of direct marketing (section 11 of the Act)
- rights in relation to automated decision taking (section 12 of the Act)
- right to take action for compensation if the individual suffers damage by any contravention of the Act by Council (section 13 of the Act)
- right to take action to rectify, block, erase or destroy inaccurate data (section 12A, 14 and 62 of the Act).
We need your consent if we are going to process data about you for purposes other than those we are required to provide by law.
If you would like to see information you think we hold about you, please complete a 'subject access request form' which is also available from our information centres or the Data Protection Officer. In order to see your information, you must provide details that will enable us to search our records and send a cheque or postal order for £10 made payable to Hampshire County Council. This charge is to help cover our administration costs. Your request will be processed within 40 days.
If you consider the data we hold about you is incorrect, write and tell us. We will reply to you, telling you what action has been taken, within 20 working days of receiving your suggested amendment. If we do not agree that the information is incorrect, you can ask us to note your disagreement in the personal records we hold on you.
If you are not satisfied with the action we take, you should write to the Data Protection Officer. When you have exhausted our procedures, you have the right to submit an appeal to the Information Commissioner, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF or by telephone on 01625 545745. Further information can be found at www.ico.gov.uk.
If you feel we may have used your personal data to send you promotional literature or advertising that you do not wish to receive, please write to the County Council requesting us not to use your details for direct marketing.
In many of our services we hold information about individuals, such as the needs of people who get help from Adult Services. We do not usually let anybody else - even members of the same family - see personal information without the agreement of the individual concerned. However, we are sometimes required by legislation to pass on information without your consent.
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 gives a general right of access to recorded information held by a public authority such as Hampshire County Council and specifies the conditions which need to be fulfilled before the Council is obliged to comply with the request.
If you would like to request information we hold, please write to us or complete the online standard request form. We will respond to your request within 20 working days from the date of receipt. If your request is particularly complex, we may contact you to clarify or ask you to be more specific in your requirements. Sometimes charges may apply.
Where information can be disclosed, we will normally provide you with a copy of the information or a summary, or let you inspect our records.
If we do not hold the information requested, we may be able to transfer your request to another public authority if you provide us with your consent to do so. Also, you should be aware that it may be necessary for us to consult third parties in order to make a decision about whether information can be released.
For further information about the Act and our publication scheme, visit our Freedom of Information web pages.
If you do not feel that your request for information is dealt with appropriately, a complaints procedure is in place. In the first instance, please contact us and we will re-examine the request. If you are still not happy, you may contact the Information Commissioner, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF or by telephone on 01625 545745 or 0845 630 6060, who will decide whether a request for information has been dealt with in accordance with the Act.