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.