The Freedom of (Ridiculous) Information Act at Work

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From What Do They Know?, a UK site run by that makes it easy for people to make Freedom of Information requests or read the results of those made by others:

Dear South Wales Fire Service,

How many cats have you saved this year?

Yours faithfully,

Thomas Lane

Holway, Tracey (Admin Officer)
South Wales Fire Service

29 November 2011

Hi Thomas

Please find the information below in response to your FOI Request.

We have been to 71 cat/kitten rescue incidents between 01/01/2011 and 15/11/2011.

This figure is the number of incidents and not necessarily the numbers of cats/kittens rescued but that is not always clear in the incident reports. That said, I would believe in most cases it would be one cat/kitten per incident.


A typically evasive government response. Only the number of "rescue incidents" is provided, which ultimately tells us very little; as the officer notes, each incident might involve multiple cats/kittens, so that the total could be well over 71, but he also fails to state how many of the rescue attempts were successful. The actual number of cats/kittens rescued, therefore, could be anywhere from zero to a thousand or more – we have no idea. What is the South Wales Fire Service trying to hide about its cat-rescue attempts?

Also good (and just as important), is this one, which relates to my post last month about what you can and can't do in a Royal Park:

Dear Royal Parks Agency,

What happens to all the wood lying around the park?

Is it possible to gather some wood in the park?

Yours faithfully,

J Hoontrakul

Dear Mr Hoontrakul,

Thank you for your enquiry …

The Royal Parks' reply is as follows:

Under The Royal Parks and Other Open Spaces Regulations 1997 – which are the framework under which the Parks are managed – it is an offence, without written permission, to "interfere with any plant or fungus." The term "plant" is defined by The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as including algae, lichens and fungi, mosses and liverworts as well as vascular plants. Many lichens, mosses, fungus and liverworts will be living on a piece of decaying wood.

The wood you see lying in the Parks has been deliberately left or placed where it is to provide decaying and dead wood habitat for invertebrates. I am afraid you may not gather it, as doing so would interfere with an important element of the Parks' biodiversity.

Yours sincerely

Peter Lewis | Records Officer | The Royal Parks

It is a little irritating, I imagine, to be told that you can't take home a piece of wood from a park because of the risk of interfering with a fungus. Still, at least they get a pleasant response to their inquiries in the UK. Over here, this would probably get you put on a terrorist watch list.