Councils quizzed on Santa, Napoleon and aliens in 2011's most wacky FoIs

Published on Friday, 23 December 2011 11:20
Posted by Scott Buckler

Alien invasions, the return of Napoleon and a crash landing by Santa are some of the more bizarre topics councils have been quizzed about by residents this year

A list of the top 10 unusual Freedom of Information (FoI) requests submitted to local authorities reveals an appetite for information ranging from obscure miscellany to the surreal.

The list was compiled by the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 350 councils in England and Wales.

Last year local authorities received more than 197,000 requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA). The cost to local government of responding to them was an estimated £31.6 million.

While many requests are for details of council policy and expenditure, some residents and organisations have sought to use the act to seek information of a more unusual nature.

West Devon District Council officers were surprised to be asked what support the council would be offering to local troops if Napoleon "and his marauding hordes" should land in the district and stage another attempt at invading Britain.

A Merseyside resident clearly thought a threat to national security was more likely to come from outer space than a long-deceased military leader, and wrote to the fire and rescue service asking what contingency plans were in place to tackle an alien invasion.

Elsewhere, in Cheltenham, council officers were quizzed on whether they had made preparations for the unlikely event of Santa and Rudolph making a crash landing in the borough this Christmas.

Cllr Peter Fleming, Chairman of the LGA's Improvement Board, said:

"Local authorities are now the most transparent part of the public sector.

"People only need to log on to their council website now to see more information on where councils spend money than has ever been published before.

"Across the country, hundreds of Freedom of Information requests are sent to local authorities every day. Councils are committed to transparency and accountability and put a lot of time and effort into ensuring that legitimate requests for information are met with full and comprehensive responses.

"However, as this list shows, some of the requests councils receive do not appear to relate very closely to the services they are focused on delivering every day of the year.

"Councils work very hard to keep local communities running as efficiently as possible and anything which distracts from that can affect the value for money that taxpayers receive."


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