When authorities reply to requests they often use a template sections in their answers. Requesters, to an extent, can do the same when asking for information.

Making it as easy as possible for an authority to identify an FOI request will reduce the potential for initial delays. It is possible to show them you know your rights, without being patronising.

The following template for a request may be a useful starting point.

All requests should be tailored to the authority and the particular information. 

Dear [Authority name]

I am writing to you under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to request the following information from [authority name/department]:

[Insert what is being asked for]

Please provide the information in the form [insert form to be received in]

If it is not possible to provide the information requested due to the information exceeding the cost of compliance limits identified in Section 12, please provide advice and assistance, under your Section 16 obligations, as to how I can refine my request to be included in the scope of the Act.

In any case, if you can identify ways that my request could be refined please provide further advice and assistance to indicate this.

I look forward to your response within 20 working days, as stipulated by the Act.

If you have any queries please don’t hesitate to contact me via email or phone and I will be happy to clarify what I am asking for, my details are outlined below.

Best wishes,

[Name]

5 COMMENTS

  1. Would you please write a more friendly request that shows appreciation and respect to the person that you are contacting.

    Please be proactive in saying please and thank you and not so officious.

    The people that you are sending the requests to know what is expected but do not appreciate the way that these requests are written.

    Thanking you in anticipation of taking these observations on board and amending the template.

    I do not want best wishes I want a thank you.

  2. “contact me via email or phone” – the phone number is not provided. Also it might be useful to provide email address in the text of the request itself. The request may be copied/pasted, printed etc., so sender’s email address may be missing when the person who actually deals with the request will read it.

  3. Thanks for this useful template. I’m sure people will adapt it to accomodate their own writing style. What I found most useful if the legal jargon – that is what bit I was after.

  4. I agree a thank you may make the request more agreeable for want of a better word. And as for the comment of July 28th 2016 I believe that the email and phone number should be added to the template which is provided.

  5. As someone who responds to FOI requests on a weekly basis, trust me, any request received in this kind of pompous and rude template would go straight to the back of the queue! Just state that it’s an FOI request – we know all about the regulations, exemptions and the requirement to respond within 20 days. Stating all of that in the request is completely unnecessary and just comes across that you think you know our job better than we do.

    Be a bit more friendly for starters. Invite the responder to discuss the possible methods of obtaining the info with you. It might be that we’ve got something a lot more suitable and helpful that what you’re asking and we’re far more likely to go a bit beyond our role if we don’t think that the correspondent will be threatening an appeal to the ICO if it’s not exactly as they were expecting. We’re people too earning a living and we don’t just have your FOI request deal with. And yours isn’t more important or urgent than any other.

    Finally, be very clear what you require. If your require statistics on schools, you’ll get a much more accurate reply if you state “I require details of the numbers of pupils at Southbank School as at the latest school census, crosstabbed by gender and ethnicity” than if it’s written as “Can you send me information on the gender and ethnicity of pupils at Southbank School”.

    And say please and thank you!

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