Emergency plans to cope with a dragon attack or meteor shower, pet exorcisms and frozen animals are just some of the more bizarre topics councils have been quizzed on by residents.
A ‘top 10’ list of unusual Freedom of Information (FoI) requests submitted to councils, compiled by the Local Government Association (LGA), reveals the weird and wacky enquiries landing on the desk of town hall officials.
One Wigan resident must have watched one too many episodes of ‘Game of Thrones’ before asking his council what plans they have to protect the town from a dragon attack. Officers at Worthing Borough Council were surprised to be asked if the seaside town was ready to cope with an asteroid crash.
Elsewhere, Rossendale Council was asked if it had paid for exorcisms to be performed on possessed pets and animal-lovers in Cambridge quizzed the City Council how many animals it had frozen.
Councils are also having to answer requests for information readily available on council websites, such as for staff telephone numbers. Commercial organisations are exploiting the system by seeking information on council suppliers and contracts, such as mobile phone or computer providers, so they can bid for business.
Cllr Peter Fleming, Chairman of the LGA’s Improvement Board, said: “A rising number of Freedom of Information requests are sent to local authorities across the country every day and councils put a lot of time and effort into ensuring that legitimate requests for information are met with full and comprehensive responses.
“Local authorities are the most transparent part of the public sector. People only need to log on to their council website right now to see more information on where their council spends money than has ever been published before.
“While the majority of requests to councils are for details of council policy and expenditure, some of the FoI requests received do not relate very closely to the services they are focused on providing every day of the year.
“Councils are working very hard to keep local communities running as efficiently as possible during these challenging financial times and anything which distracts from that can affect the value for money that taxpayers receive.”
Examples of unusual FoIs received by councils include:
- What plans are in place to protect the town from a dragon attack? (Wigan Council).
- Please list all the types of animals you have frozen since March 2012, including the type and quantity of each animal? (Cambridge City Council).
- How many times has the council paid for the services of an exorcist, psychic or religious healer? Were the services performed on an adult, child, pet or building? (Rossendale Council).
- Please can you let me know how many roundabouts are located within your council boundaries? (Leicestershire County Council).
- What precautions, preparations, planning and costings have been undertaken in the case an asteroid crashes into Worthing, a meteorite landing in Worthing or solar activity disrupting electromagnetic fields? (Worthing Borough Council).
- How many holes in privacy walls between cubicles have been found in public toilets and within council buildings in the last 10 years? (Rossendale Council).
- How many bodies are there in mortuaries that have been unclaimed for ten years? How long have these bodies been in the mortuary? How old were they when they died? Is it possible to have the names of these people? (Richmond Council).
- How many people in the town have a licence to keep a tiger, lion, leopard, lynx or panther as a pet? (Scarborough Council).
- How many requests were made to council-run historic public-access buildings (e.g. museums) requesting to bring a team of ‘ghost investigators’ into the building? (Birmingham Council).
- How many children in the care of the council have been micro-chipped? (Southend Council)