WhatDoTheyKnow Policy:Naming public authorities

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This page is based on an extract of WhatDoTheyKnow policy documentation. Please address any queries to WhatDoTheyKnow.com.

The process of developing policies is ongoing and changes are to be expected.

Naming public authorities

WhatDoTheyKnow has two names for each authority, a Name, used in most places on the site and a Short name displayed as "also called" and used to construct URLs.

Our usual approach is to use the full legal name of the authority as its Name. If it is generally known by some shorter name then we put that in Short name. There are exceptions and special cases, though, and some of these are listed below.

Common words


"Saint" is generally abbreviated to "St" without a full stop. British usage does not favour including a full stop in abbreviations which contain both the first and last letter of a single word. (1) The approach we take is consistent with that taken in certain the Whole of Government Accounts (Designation of Bodies) Order 2011 (2).


Often, the legislation establishing an authority will say something like "a body corporate which shall be known as the Spoo Council". In such cases we generally don't include "the" in the Name. If "The" has a capital "T", on the other hand, we generally will include it.

Punctuation and special characters

Accented characters

If a body has accented characters in its Name, and doesn't otherwise have a Short name, the name with the accents removed should appear in Short name. This helps with searching and ensures a reasonable URL.

Ampersands (&)

The full legal names of public authorities tend to be written without ampersands ("&") in any case. As far as short names are concerned ampersands will not show in the URL whereas "and" will. For these reasons The use of ampersands is generally avoided as we try to use "and" instead. If a company's name per Companies House includes an ampersand we would include it e.g. http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/body/h_f_homes_limited


If a name includes an apostrophe, we try to use a proper curly apostrophe (U+2012 RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK: ’). For example: Queen’s Printer for Scotland.


Commas are used where a place name is necessary to distinguish between two authorities with the same name: e.g. Ashington Parish Council, West Sussex.

Special cases

Archaic and unwieldy names

We use "City of London Corporation" rather than "Mayor and Commonalty and Citizens of the City of London". We list "University of Cambridge", not "Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge".

Educational institutions

If there's uncertainty about the correct name of a school in England or Wales, we follow the name used on EduBase unless it's clearly wrong.

Technically, it's the governing body of a school, college, or university that's subject to FOIA, but we generally use the name of the institution instead, hence "Manor Community College", rather than "The governing body of Manor Community College".

School names are often rather generic and are repeated throughout the country. Unless the school name is clearly unique we include a place name in Name separated by a comma, so "All Saints RC School, York", rather than "All Saints RC School".

At least for the older universities and their colleges, we use the current popular name in place of their official one because the latter is usually hugely unwieldy, for instance, so as noted above we list "University of Cambridge", not "Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge".

CE should be used in place of "Church of England" in both name and short name of schools (except for Church of England Academies). RC is used in place of "Roman Catholic" in both the name and the short name of schools.

Fire and Rescue Authorities

Fire and rescue authorities are usually listed under the names of their associated fire and rescue services, so "Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service" rather than "Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority".

Local authorities

The word "Metropolitan" and the name "London" are often omitted when naming local authorities but should appear in the long-name. The name "London" is also often omitted when naming local authorities (should these be added to long-names?). We don't tend to include "unitary authority" in the names of unitary authorities (should we?).

Where appropriate the name of the Council is followed by a comma and then the place name e.g. Ashington Parish Council, West Sussex.

NHS bodies

Any body with "National Health Service" in its name gets it replaced with "NHS".

A primary care trust whose name ends "Primary Care Trust" gets " (PCT)" appended, as in "Cambridgeshire Primary Care Trust (PCT)".

A community health council whose name ends "Community Health Council" gets " (CHC)" appended, as in "Brecknock and Radnor Community Health Council (CHC)".

Many PCTs and strategic health authorities are now rebranding themselved as "NHS _place_", and we put these names in as Short name.


While the FOIA lists the chief constable of each police force as being subject to the Act, we list the names of the police forces themselves, so "Cambridgeshire Constabulary" rather than "Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire". Similarly, for persons with the right to nominate special constables, we list the names of their bodies of constables, so "Liverpool Port Police", rather than "Mersey Docks and Harbour Company".

Registered companies

For companies registered under the Companies Act 2006, we use the registered name for Name. The registered name can be found from OpenCorporates. Registered names are all upper-case and have no accents, so we convert to lower-case and add accents in accordance with the company's own practice. Where the name ends with "Ltd.", we drop the full stop. British usage does not favour including a full stop in abbreviations which contain both the first and last letter of a single word. (1)

Other names

Many names

If a body has several trading names or a commonly used acronym it can be a good idea to list them in the public notes so that they can be found by searching.

Welsh translations

Welsh names for public authorities should be added using Welsh Public Body Name Field.

e.g. Ministry of Defence.

This website is very useful for finding Welsh translations for the names of public bodies: http://www.termcymru.wales.gov.uk.

Previous names

Adding previous names that a body has been known by to the public notes field can assist those searching for the body.

Maintenance searches

The following searches can be run in the admin interface:

  • search for the wrong types of apostrophes (will also return authorities with email addresses containing these)
  • search for instances of "St." - normally removed and replaced with "St".