Data Protection and Freedom of Information obligations for Town and Parish Councils

Freedom of Information Act (FOI)

The Freedom of Information Act gives everyone the right to ask any public body, including town and parish councils, for copies of recorded information held by the public body.

There are no restrictions on the type of information that can be requested but the Freedom of Information Act does allow for some information to be withheld provided the exemption criteria are met. Most exemptions require the public body to demonstrate and explain clearly why it would not be in the public interest for the information to be provided. There are strict timescales for complying with Freedom of Information requests. Any councillor receiving a request for information should ensure that they take steps to process the request as soon as possible.

The requirements of the FOI Act are available to view on Freedom of Information Act pages of Wiltshire Council’s website.

Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA)

The Data Protection Act is the legal framework within which organisations who are controllers of personal data must operate, whether that personal data is held in either manual or computerised files. Organisations are legally obliged to protect any personal data they hold.

Town and Parish councils are required to notify and register their status as data controllers with the Information Commissioner’s Office, which maintains a public register of data controllers. Parish councillors may also be required to notify to the Information Commissioner in their own right, and cannot assume that they can rely on their council’s notification.

Further information on the requirements of the notification process and guidance about the need for councillors to notify to the Information Commissioner in their own right can be found on the Information Commissioner's website.