Losing the will to live

Today I have been mainly tracking down local council email addresses to which I need to send Freedom of Information requests. An easy job, you might think. Ten hours ago I thought so too.

Some councils have really got the hang of this FOI malarkey. Nice clear links on the front page, helpful information and easy-to-find addresses. Have a bouquet, Staffordshire, Westminster, Wolverhampton and Stoke. A rubber chicken to Hounslow, Reading, Sefton and Somerset which offer only online forms that make full postal address a required field.

A few councils make it pretty clear that they don’t welcome FOI requests by writing a grudging spiel along the lines of ‘the law requires us to provide you with information if you absolutely insist’, and then burying contact details in pdf downloads, or insisting requests must be by letter. (C’mon guys, this is 2008). Others omit FOI from their A-Z lists so that it can only be found via a search engine, and in one case I couldn’t actually find any information at all (you know who you are, Herefordshire).

A special prize, though, to Sheffield for introducing hilarity into an otherwise depressing day. When you eventually track down (via search engine) their FOI blurb, it says:

If our staff think that you would benefit from using your access to information rights they’ll tell you about them.

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4 Responses to Losing the will to live

  1. Richard says:

    If you haven’t seen it already, http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/ might be able to help you get in touch with a few of the more, er, “shy and retiring” authorities.

  2. Ian Brown says:

    I’m sure mySociety would appreciate the details that you discovered to add to their list of local councils: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/body/list/local_council

  3. archrights says:

    Thanks, Richard. I’ll see if I can track down the remaining laggards.

  4. Glyn says:

    Herefordshire FOI information

    By Post:
    Freedom of Information Compliance Officer
    35 Hafod Road
    Hereford
    HR1 1SH

    By telephone via Herefordshire Council’s main reception number: 01432 260000
    By e-mail: foi@herefordshire.gov.uk
    By web form: http://www.herefordshire.gov.uk/forms/foirequest.aspx

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