Turn a question into an FOI request

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 gives requesters the right to request recorded information and receive it except where an exemption applies. The Act does not give you a right to make a public authority justify or explain decisions they have taken. The upshot of all this is that some questions are FOI requests and some are not. Starting your question with “Why” is the equivalent of giving public authorities a “Get out of FOI free card”.


Unfortunately, part of being a skilled FOI requester is jumping through procedural hoops. It helps to include clear requests for recorded information rather than questions that may or may not be considered to be valid requests. I have given some hints below on how best to do this.

Question form Example Request for recorded information
Who? Who is the HR Director? Please provide me with the name of the current Director of Human Resources.
What? What does the Strategic Director do? Please provide me with a copy of the job description of the Strategic Director. Please also provide me with a copy of the Strategic Director’s performance objectives for 2015.
When? When did the Executive Committee meet? Please provide me with the dates and times of the last five meetings of the Executive Committee.
Where? Where are you planning to hold the consultation meetings? Please provide me with the addresses of the venues where the consultation meetings are planned to be held.
Why? Why did you close the library> Please provide me with any recorded information held relating to the decision to close the library.
How much? How much do you spend on debt collection? Please provide me with the total amount spent on debt collection during the last three calendar years
How many? How many staff work in marketing? Please provide me with the number of employees currently working in marketing on a ful time equivalent basis.
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