15 April 2024

Unlocking The Power Of Freedom Of Information Requests

A Step-by-Step Guide to Submitting a Freedom Of Information Request to Bradford Council

As citizens, harnessing Freedom of Information, or FOI for short, can be an incredibly powerful tool, allowing you to access a wealth of public records that can be informative and revealing.

Issuing FOI requests are easy to do and can be a powerful tool in helping make local councils, such as Bradford Metropolitan District Council, truly accountable to the people who are paying their wages.

In this post I am going to provide a quick overview to help you on your quest for knowledge, along with some step-by-step instructions to navigate the FOI request maze with the finesse of a seasoned explorer. It is a lot easier than you think, as you will soon see.


What is Freedom of Information (FOI)?

Imagine a world where the curtains that shroud the workings of local councils are drawn back, offering a panoramic view of the democratic process in all its glory. This is the essence of the Freedom of Information (FOI) act.

At its core, a FOI request is a powerful tool designed to promote transparency and accountability in government, allowing citizens to request and obtain public records that were once behind closed doors. In the UK, this right is enshrined in law, serving as a statutory right that empowers people to access an array of information held by public authorities, including the Local Government Association (LGA).

Here are a sample of the kind of facts and figures you can get your hands on.

  • Budget information - Peek into the financial blueprints of local government planning and expenditure.

  • Meeting minutes - Get an unfiltered look at the discussions and decisions that shape your community.

  • Reports - Delve into detailed analyses and findings on various local government activities and initiatives.


Through FOI, you can become an informed citizen, with a greater understanding of the inner-workings of the council, and other bodies.


The FOI Request Process

Embarking on an FOI request is like setting out on a treasure hunt, where clarity is your map and specificity your compass.

Here's how to begin your expedition into the heart of the local government's vault of information:

STEP 1 - Identify

The first thing you need to do is identify what it is you want to know. This could be a specific piece of information or a document you're seeking. You need to be as precise as possible to avoid any detours, which I will talk about more in a moment.

STEP 2 - Contact

Next you need to decide how you are going to submit your FOI request. There are several ways you can contact Bradford Metropolitan District Council.  This could be via email, using an online form, or writing to a postal address.

The details for BMDC are as follows:



Web Form: 



Corporate Information Governance
City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council,
City Hall,
Centenary Square,
Bradford, BD1 1HY.


STEP 3 - Prepare your request

This might sound like the challenging part, but it really isn't. All you need to do is word your request in the simplest and most specific way possible, and try to avoid writing an essay.

In another post I will go into detail as to how to finetune your FOI request, but for now just keep it short, specific and concise.

Remember, rambling requests are like cryptic maps – they rarely lead to treasure.


STEP 4 - Submit

Next you hit that submit button if it is an email FOI request or on the web form, or you drop your request into the post. I've already included the details in step 2, so no need to repeat them here.

For most people, email and the form on the website are by far and away the quickest and easiest option, and I suspect they are the preferred option for Bradford Council too. One of the big benefits of doing it this way is that you have an audit trail of when you sent the request and when they responded. This is important as the council are required to respond within a certain number of days.


STEP 5 - Patience is key

Responses typically take up to 20 working days. If you're venturing in search of a vast trove of data, expect the journey to take a tad longer.

The council is obliged to provide the information within 20 days, but there are multiple reasons as to why this might not happen and you have to accept that this can be the case. However, that doesn't mean you give up. It just means you continue the dialogue in the way that the council will suggest (rewording the FOI, giving them more time, escalating it, appealing). We will cover some of these possibilities in additional posts.

By following these steps, you'll maximize your chances of a successful FOI request that will provide you with the information you need.



In this initial article on the topic of Freedom of Information I just wanted to provide an overview. I will be putting together some additional articles and resources to help you with FOIs, but hopefully the above will allow you to get going.

Issuing FOIs is incredibly easy and can be very satisfying as it makes you realise that you have a lot more power as a citizen than you might have thought.