ANYONE can submit a request under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act and the process in most cases should be straightforward.

A range of organisations are subject to the Act, but before sending off an FOI request you should check their websites first to see if they have a disclosure log.

Most will have and the information you are looking for could be there, or could simply be published by them on a regular basis anyway.

If it is not then you can submit an FOI, normally by sending an email or writing a letter to their public access department.

You can also send requests to Government ministers, chief executives and press officers.

Details can usually be found on the organisation’s website.

The following organisations are subject to the FOI Act:

* Government departments and agencies
* NHS bodies and GPs, dentists and opticians
* Local councils
* Schools, colleges, universities
* Police and armed forces
* Regulators, quangos, museums and advisory committees
* Publicly owned companies
* BBC and Channel 4 (except for journalistic materials)
* Houses of Parliament, Scottish Parliament, Northern Ireland Assembly and National Assembly for Wales

When you submit an FoI request you must use your real name, as using a pseudonym can invalidate it.

You should describe clearly what you want and you can ask for the organisation to provide it in electronic format.

You can ask for:

* Any recorded information in any format
* A database to be searched and information extracted
* Info held on behalf of an authority, for example by a contractor.

You have no right to:

* Unrecorded information
* Photocopies if everything can be provided in another form
* Creation of new information. However collating information is not classed as creating new information.

FoI is known as ‘applicant blind’. This means you cannot be discriminated against based on your identity or motive.

Requests can be refused if they would cost a Government department more than £600 to answer.

For any other organisation the cost limit is £450.

This is based on the cost of locating, retrieving and extracting information and does not include the costs of deciding or redacting information.

Once you have submitted a request you must receive a reply within 20 working days, unless there are grounds for a reasonable extension while a public interest test is considered. This should be no more than another 20 working days.

You can only be charged for photocopying, printing, postage or the costs of putting the documents into your preferred format.