From the number of funerals paid for by the local authority to how many of their bins have been fitted with spy devices, Freedom of Information (FOI) requests continue to exact a heavy burden on Moray Council staff.
Questions that range from sensible probing to the frankly bizarre are fielded in the direction of Council staff under FOI laws that came into force with the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act in 2002.
Who knew that Moray taxpayers were responsible for covering the costs of 15 public health/environmental funerals (once known as ‘paupers funerals’) in the five years to December – at a total cost to the taxpayer of £7,777?
Another request that elicited a response in December sought to expose how many council employees had committed criminal acts while at work (seven in the last five years), while yet another from a possibly disgruntled planning applicant sought out the number of refused housing development applications that had resulted in appeals (none).
Amongst the more bizarre requests sought out details on how many complaints the local authority had to deal with regarding foxes, including how many had been found on school property (none).
However, perhaps the most bizarre of all came from someone who perhaps had just finished reading the classic novel ‘1984’, and sought to establish how many council waste bins in Moray had been fitted with microchips. Specifically, the request sought information on the penalties that could be incurred if households broke ‘bin rules’.
Residents will be pleased to know that no such devices are fitted and there are no plans by Moray Council to do so.
There is the occasional request that can lead to surprising responses – it was, for example, a FOI request back in September that uncovered the tale of how council staff had, early in 2013, reported a ghost at Bishopmill House in Elgin.
Moray Council staff had to deal with a total of 943 FOI requests last year reported on the Council web site. Throughout Scotland, local authorities reported having to deal with over 60,000 such requests in 2013/14.