Zombie and Napoleon defense plans among weird FOI requests in United Kingdom

Today’s wacky freedom of information tidbit comes from across the pond in the United Kingdom.

Zombies, aliens and Santa’s sleigh may be partly to blame for the backlogs in many agencies’ freedom of information responses.

What do these three have to do with FOI, you ask?

They were all on a list of weirdest freedom of information requests in 2011 in the United Kingdom. While laughable, it is problematic when agencies spend precious time responding to frivolous requests like these.

“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,” said Councillor Peter Fleming, Local Government Association improvement board chairman, in a news release.  “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.”

The weirdest request: A petition odd enough to make one question either the requester’s sincerity or mental stability.

“How does the council plan to help the brave soldiers of our infantry if and when Napoleon and his marauding hordes invade the district?” read the request to West Devon District Council.

“…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.”

Many people in the freedom of information community are making good use of new open records legislation by exposing scandals and keeping government officials accountable. But senseless queries delegitimize the crucially important role of  freedom of information.

Read the full top-10 list.

The Local Government Association in the United Kingdom, head of more than 350 English and Welsh councils, compiled the list.

Next week: FOI and UFOs

Whitney is the summer Pulliam/Killgore intern with the Society of Professional Journalists. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University after studying journalism. Connect with her via email –  wevans@hq.spj.org –  or on twitter – @whitevs7

*Know something about Freedom of Information that you think we should cover in a blog post? We want to hear from you! Send information to wevans@HQ.SPJ.org. It may be featured in a future post.

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