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back to article ICO: Nearly HALF all FOI complaints are about local councils

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) received 1,922 freedom of information complaints about local authorities in 2011-12, accounting for 43 per cent of the total number of complaints, according to the watchdog's latest annual report. The document says that of the 4,633 freedom of information complaints during the year, …

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Anonymous Coward

Overseen by second rate 'politicians' managed by third rate empire builders, and run by mistreated employees who are continually put upon.

No wonder it goes wrong.

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Anonymous Coward

Management Motto

'Half as much work for twice as much pay and pensions'

'Treat your employee minions and the public as a irritation'

'When asked to leave, take the payoff then move on to the next well paid council position and fail again, remembering to sign a contract with a huge pension plan and payoff clause'

That's why the councils fail so much, the rot is in the management.

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Anonymous Coward

Salesmen

I currently work in I.T. for a NHS Trust and most of the freedom of information requests we receive are from salespeople trying to find what kit and contracts we have. They try to cover their tracks by using gmail addresses but it's blatant from the requests are about.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Salesmen

I work in education and get the same. People using gmail/hotmail addresses to find out contract renewal dates.

Are there companies offering this FOI-spam service ?

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Re: Salesmen

As this post is worded, there is a blurring about when those requests should be dealt with as routine business, not FOI requests. An FOI is about requesting documents that the public authority might hold on a particular issue. Asking about the date of a contract renewal can be handled as a normal letter. Asking for a copy of the existing contract would be an FOI request.

There are plenty of fraudsters and con artists using it, but don't forget lots of legitimate people too. The FOI Act is requestor blind though so use of gmail addresses etc should be irrelevant.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Salesmen

So? Isn't that what it's about - being open / transparent with the taxpayers money and how it is spent.

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Thumb Down

Really doesn't shock me. I've lived in a lot of places in my life and I've yet to meet a "local government" that isn't corrupt as a Russian copper!

"Need permission to knock down a 300 year old building? Not to change the subject but my sister's son could use some work..." etc. etc. etc.

Local Government is where the stupid pollies would couldn't get their noses into the big government end up!

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Anonymous Coward

Too many politicians get carried away with the taxpayers money - rather than looking for ways it can be saved they look for bigger and grander projects - often which are very poor value. What about the tram project in Edinburgh for example - is it just me or does anyone else think trams are a bad idea - fixed route, expensive to buy and run - why not just use busses - at least they are off-the-shelf / cheaper.

Nearer me someone at the council decides it would be a good idea to totally change the road layout - pedestrianise large sections. It's screwed the traffic, the locals hate it, the shopkeepers hate it but the council bods went on all sorts of 'fact finding' missions abroad... just not right - especially when they can't get the basics right and want to cut back on the actual stuff we use as a result.

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Anonymous Coward

FOI

We get plagued by students and politician's aids who want us to do their research for them as well as the sales people and green inkers who are just out to waste as many resources as possible. We've had staff go off sick from the stress of answering requests from a single persistent requesters. These people maybe make up 10% of requesters but take up 90% of the resources. They're ruining the system for the majority of people who put in perfectly reasonable requests.

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FAIL

Re: FOI

Seriously? The only reason I see for FOI request causing stress, is if the answers to the questions uncover your incompetence, and if that's the case, then maybe that's the motivation they need to do their jobs well.

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Unhappy

Re: FOI

Browse the comments sections of the Daily Fail etc, now imagine a large number of those cretins submitting FOI requests. Now imagine they refuse to believe anything you tell them (we don't bloody have files on UFO sightings anymore, I cannot release files telling you where all the nukes are etc) and then imagine them dragging you through endless appeals.

The post from AC is very faimiliar to anyone who works with FOI and this has nothing to do with their competence or lack of. There are lots of paranoid and wierd people, they can get pretty spiteful/abusive and they are drawn to FOI under the illusion that they will obtain the miracle documents that will confirm their paranoia. You, as a private citizen can tell them were to go, government workers are not allowed to and so have to take the crap that they dish out. C'est la vie.

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Anonymous Coward

Anymore

is not a word.

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Meh

Re: FOI

I can understand how what you describe would be annoying, repetative, etc., but not stressful, certainly not to the level that makes you require time off work. You do have to answer (most of) their questions with an accurate and reasoned responce, but so what, that's called doing your job.

A massive influx of requests causing people to over work can cause stress, but that's a more general problem of lack of resources, not the actual FOI requests.

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Gimp

Re: FOI

@Interested Party: That just means you have never worked with the public. Having irrational people screaming (literally) at you for absolutly no good reason when all you are allowed to do is sit there and wait for them to run out of wind before you can so much as try to hang up politely can do more then just get on your. After months, it can give you nightmare as you realize some of those people may hold important jobs and are completely ignorant of how stupid they are. You may (or not) be a good example of this. Ask yourself and think carefully before you decide to answer.

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WTF?

Re: FOI

Spoken like someone who has never had to deal with half of the halfwit numpties I have had to respond to over the last few years.

Never under-estimate the public ability to plumb new levels of stupid!!

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Of the 12,985 complaints they've accounted for 35% of them... what about the rest? I suspect that the majority of the unexplained 65% is made up of direct marketing complaints and the reason why the ICO hasn't mentioned anything about these is because they don't take action over direct marketing complaints.

It's one thing patting themselves on the back but prosecuting government organisations is easy as they have to comply so they can't fight back. How many commercial organisations have the ICO prosecuted?

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Anonymous Coward

I'm not all surprised. Controversial plans to put up new buildings/destroy existing ones are usually the responsibility of local government. You often get the situation where a lot of people suspect that council members were bribed by the developers, and that the council is lying about key aspects of the proposal (e.g. they're going to tear down your local library, and the council makes vague promises that they will build a replacement library -- but the promises are sufficiently vague that you suspect that they have absolutely no intention of actually building the replacement library).

The bribery would be very hard to prove ... but a sufficient number of FOIA requests can make it harder to sustain a lie. (Especially if you've already got an illegally obtained copy of the crucial document that catches them out in a lie, and just need to obtain another copy by legal means to avoid compromising your intelligence source).

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Anonymous Coward

Mostly just sales fishing expeditions

Mostly just sales drones trying to find out what kit you've got so they can try to bypass the usual phone gatekeepers. i.e. slightly more credible sounding lies about renewing your blah-blah brand copier contract or blah-blah mobile contract.

FOI is great in theory, but if you bear in mind the number of internal auditors and extra paper-shuffling processes are required to maintain it, little wonder the public sector smells of fail and waste.

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