Home Law and Guidance Duties under FOI law

Publishing information

Publishing information

FOI law requires authorities to publish information. Publishing information brings real benefits to authorities. An authority that makes detailed information about its work available is giving a clear message that it is open and transparent. If information is published and easily accessible, people won't have to request it under FOI.

Our research has also found that people are also more likely to trust organisations that publish a lot of information about their work.

Legal requirement

The FOI Act requires authorities to adopt and maintain a publication scheme which sets out the information they publish and how people can access it (section 23).

This includes information on:

  • The services they provide
  • The cost and standards of services
  • The reasons for decisions
  • The data that informs decisions.

The EIRs requires authorities to "actively disseminate" the environmental information they hold (regulation 4).

Meeting the requirement

To help authorities, the Commissioner produces a Model Publication Scheme (MPS) for authorities to adopt. Authorities that adopt the MPS commit to publishing information in line with the MPS principles.

Adopting the MPS enables authorities to meet the requirements of both the FOI Act and the EIRs. You can find out more about these in our FOI Law section. 

To adopt the MPS you will first need to prepare a Guide to Information. This is a customer-focussed document or online resource which tells the public about the information your authority publishes under the MPS, and how to access it.

Authorities must notify the Commissioner when they have adopted the MPS.

Steps to take

In meeting the duty to publish authorities should:

  1. Commit to adopting the Model Publication Scheme (MPS)
  2. Read the Commissioner's Model Publication Scheme Guidance
  3. Identify the information the authority holds that falls under the MPS's classes of information
  4. Prepare and publish a Guide to Information
  5. Notify the Commissioner
  6. Set up procedures to keep the Guide to Information up to date
  7. Ensure staff across the authority know what they should be publishing, and how to publish it.

Best practice tips

  • Involve senior management - make sure senior staff have the information they need to promote the benefits of publication to staff across the authority
  • Don't wait until FOI comes into effect - start publishing information now
  • Publish as much as you can - the more you publish, the fewer requests you'll receive
  • Keep customers at the heart of your approach - make sure information is clearly described in a way that will make it easy to find
  • Prepare for publication - when you're creating new information, think about publication
  • Create new documents that are "publication ready" - reducing the work involved in publishing
  • Promote your Guide to Information - let service-users and staff know about your Guide to Information and how they can use it to access information
  • Review your requests - regularly review the information requests you receive. Can you publish the information being asked for routinely?

Further information and resources