back to article Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?

Brits are very concerned about the potential for life-threatening incidents involving dragon attacks, asteroid crashes and ghostly manifestations and they want their local council to do something about it, if their FoI requests are anything to go by. A dragon in Game of Thrones England’s Local Government Association has …

  1. PleebSmash
    Mushroom

    This is a conspiracy to discredit legitimate use of FoI requests

    You heard it here first.

    1. Bunbury

      Re: This is a conspiracy to discredit legitimate use of FoI requests

      It's concerning that such a "looks at what these fools are asking!" piece includes asteroid impacts. They clearly think that is a daft concern. Whereas it's quite a logical worry, though a local council is not the place to raise it. Big asteroid or comet strikes are infrequent but do happen and if big enough would cause widespread death and destruction. A calculation of chance of happening in one year x deaths if it does raises a big enough number to have a plan for.

      The problem is - given that the strike area is effectively random - that this is something that is better dealt with at a national or international level. After all, if a big one lands on your town it won't be much help the council having a plan. So the FOI request/lobbying would be better directed at the local MP or MEP rather than the local council.

      1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        Re: This is a conspiracy to discredit legitimate use of FoI requests

        ...It's concerning that such a "looks at what these fools are asking!" piece includes asteroid impacts. They clearly think that is a daft concern. Whereas it's quite a logical worry, though a local council is not the place to raise it...

        Actually, it's quite reasonable. It's very sensible to have plans for what would happen in the event of a major natural disaster of any kind happening sufficiently nearby for survivors to be likely to arrive in the area in large numbers. If I were a council I would expect my plans would be:

        1 - in the event of being hit by an asteroid: go up in smoke.

        2 - in the event of a nearby county/country being hit: prepare lists of useful services and places of refuge, move as many local people out as I could, contact central government and offer the services I had documented.

  2. Tom 38 Silver badge

    Haha, amusing yes..

    The purpose behind PR like this is to push the story "OMG we are wasting so much money on FOI requests, look at this nonsense we have to put up with", with the aim of limiting or reducing FOI.

    What it doesn't show is whether we are getting value for money by allowing requests like this, because it also allows proper investigative journalism - the kind Private Eye does, not the "Fake Sheikh" red top investigative journalism.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Haha, amusing yes..

      We should issue a PR from the 'General Public' saying on how useful and reassuring having the ability for anyone to issue a FOI request.

      This can be followed by a FOI request that asks how many FOI requests where considered 'japes' vs how many were genuine.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Haha, amusing yes..

        "This can be followed by a FOI request that asks how many FOI requests where considered 'japes' vs how many were genuine." Or how many are a precursor to a sales pitch, which seems to be the large majority of the requests I have to process. Annoyingly, I would tell them what they wanted to know over the phone but for some unknown reason they think an FoI is a better route. Unfortunately it wastes more of my time than a conversation on the phone when you do your sales pitch.

    2. MyffyW Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Haha, amusing yes..

      I suspect you are right, @Tom_38. These days I often find myself peeking behind these sort of stories to try and spot the hidden agenda. I'd far rather we indulge the occasional daft FoI request than gave the over-eager hand of government a free rein.

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Haha, amusing yes..

      Another clever trick is to release the FOI data to everyone - I mean you can't have too much openness and transparency can you?

      This means that a real investigative journalist that spends time tracking down a story and finding out what information to request, is then scooped by red-tops running out a quick story of the scandal - before the detailed story can be written.

    4. Seanie Ryan

      Re: Haha, amusing yes..

      simple answer to requests

      "Yes we can prepare for Asteroid impacts. This will mean a 10% increase in taxes to cater for this unlikely event. If you are happy with the increase, please let us know and we will proceed."

      usually, end of discussion.

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Haha, amusing yes..

        Re: simple answer to requests:

        That's not an answer to an FoI request. An FoI request makes you trawl through a huge pile of documents and emails and answer the question "what have you discussed/said/decided/planned/thought about *this*?"

        (Besides, to come up with that "10%" figure, you'd have to go through a whole feasibility study, project plan, and a whole pile more expensive activity. It'd take months, in itself, just to come up with a number like that, unless you pull it straight out of your backside.)

        However, the FoIA contains an exemption for "vexatious requests", which are fairly broadly defined and it seems to me that authorities could get away with filing several of these in that particular bin, if they wanted to. Certainly the one about dragons.

        Personally, I think the FoIA contained an own goal in making requests "free". The pre-existing Data Protection Act allowed organisations to charge a "reasonable" administrative fee for tracking down and handing out information - something like twenty or thirty quid - which I think is reasonable, while also enough of a bar to deter the most frivolous of these loons.

        1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

          Re: Haha, amusing yes..

          ...authorities could get away with filing several of these in that particular bin, if they wanted to. Certainly the one about dragons....

          But I WANT to respond to the one about dragons!

          At the moment I'm not too sure if I would use the RAF, a staunch man of Laketown with a special arrow, or Pratchett's Lady Sybil Deirdre Olgivanna Ramkin-Vimes....

  3. sorry, what?
    Devil

    And what was Rossendale Council's response?

    I'd love to know. I bet at least one of the values was > 0. Probably not as many as 666 though.

    1. The Mole

      Re: And what was Rossendale Council's response?

      It does seem a perfectly legitimate inquiry to me - particularly if it was requested by a journalist who already knows it has happened at least once and was therefore trying to ascertain how often it happens in order to report the matter accurately.

    2. Havin_it

      Re: And what was Rossendale Council's response?

      ...And if it happens again:

      Who they gonna call?

  4. Sir Sham Cad

    Plans for dragon attack

    I'd love to read the answer to that one.

    "All staff are required to complete at least 50 hours of mandatory Skyrim and are prepared to deal with incidents involving Dragons, Trolls and Giants. Your council - Working Hard for You!"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Plans for dragon attack

      Since it was from a Wigan resident then the response shirley would have included some reference to making sure you have enough pies in to survive the attack (Wigan residents being known as "pie-eaters")

    2. Brian Miller

      Re: Plans for dragon attack

      Really, it's quite simple: arm the citizenry. You never hear of dragon attacks in the USA because citizens may legally own .50-cal hunting rifles. Really, do you think that these things are for deer?? No, the rifles are for dragons and whales. (No, we don't use them on the Ogre battle tank. We trap those when they're in season.)

      1. Fluffy Bunny
        Angel

        Re: Plans for dragon attack

        " No, the rifles are for dragons and whales" - .50 cal rifles don't work on skywhales. Originally built as a part of Canberra's bad art program, it escaped and has been terrorising the public for years. No matter how often we fire off the canon (disguised as a ceremonial salute to visiting dignitaries),we have never been able to get rid of it.

    3. Elmer Phud

      Re: Plans for dragon attack

      "All staff are required to complete at least 50 hours of mandatory Skyrim and are prepared to deal with incidents involving Dragons, Trolls and Giants. Your council - Working Hard for You!"

      Yeah, yeah -- we know damned well that those supposed 'radar' domes are actually where the M.O.D. house our very own attack Unicorns.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Plans for dragon attack

      Probably better training than most 'happy-clappy' positive management clap-trap training that is prevelent these days. It would also prepare officials to react correctly when people's sweet-rolls are stolen, or when people take an arrow to the knee.

  5. ukgnome
    Trollface

    I pay my council tax, so answer the damn question already!

    How many times has sacrifice come up as a legitimate answer for getting housing approved?

    1. Grikath
      Trollface

      Re: I pay my council tax, so answer the damn question already!

      Given the scarcity of british virgins nowadays.... not as often as it used to..

      1. Dan Paul

        Re: I pay my council tax, so answer the damn question already!

        Aren't British Virgins a more scarce commodity than Dragons?

        1. Rob
          Coat

          Re: I pay my council tax, so answer the damn question already!

          Why do you think Dragons died out...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Why did dragons die out?

            because Uther Pendragon had them hunted down?

        2. Craig 28

          Re: I pay my council tax, so answer the damn question already!

          Only if you limit yourself to female virgins.

  6. JonP
    Joke

    "... which distracts from that can affect the value for money that taxpayers receive." - what no one wanted to admit was that efficiency increased when everyone was running around answering FoI requests rather than doing their jobs!

    And, to be fair, the asteroid one (meteorite) possibly wasn't the most stupid question...

    1. The Mole

      Agreed, and the answer is likely to be the same as the dragon attack - they would put in place the same major incident plan that they use for natural disasters, terrorism or civil unrest.

      1. hplasm
        Devil

        Re:same major incident plan

        ..."- they would put in place the same major incident plan that they use for natural disasters, terrorism or civil unrest."

        Hide until the peasants are all dead.

    2. the spectacularly refined chap

      And, to be fair, the asteroid one (meteorite) possibly wasn't the most stupid question...

      There's a difference between asking about legitimate contingency planning, the public interest of where taxpayers' money is being spent (i.e. the exorcisms etc) and the plain ridiculous. The problem is that they always get lumped together into one "crazy" category regardless of whether the individual questions belong there or not.

      As for the asteroids, I see a direct correlation with a question I asked informally at a BBC local radio open day a few years back. I asked if the station and transmitter were EMP hardened against nuclear strike. It always used to be a cornerstone of civil defence planning during the cold war, but the response I got was simply a look of utter bewilderment, "as if that's going to happen".

      1. Gordon861

        I think it used to be similar with the Emergency Planning in local authorities, but then they decided to get rid of the radios and aerials from the town halls and the radios.

        I think they now plan to rely on mobile phones, which won't have a chance, and amateur radio which will also mostly be fried if a nuke hits.

    3. Triggerfish

      Once whilst temping for the council I had a customer tell me we could save a fortune on fuel by moving all bin depots to the top of hills (we were in Yorkshire) and just letting the bin lorries run down the hills and use the momentum to crest the next hill, and wanted to know why we hadn't thought f implementing this practice.

      Nah dragon attack probably isn't the most stupid request.

  7. Ol'Peculier
    Meh

    Hmmm..

    I'm not sure about this. My council was asked how many houses had licences to keep lions and the like, but if I do a search on whatdotheyknow.com - which is where most FOI requests are created - I don't get any results.

    Mind you, I trust my local council as far as I could throw the Clown Hall...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmmm..

      Trust me WDTK is FAR FAR from the place that most FOIs come from.

      Most of them come directly to us via corporate inboxes.

      In 4 years I have received about 20 FOIs from WDTK vs 400+ via the corporate inbox.

  8. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Still waiting to find out what my council will do if a dragon is hit by an asteroid in our airspace.

    So much for FOI.

  9. Tom 35

    how many times it had paid for an exorcist, psychic or religious healer...

    If I had reason to believe they were wasting money on that type of crap it would not be a strange question, just one they would not want to answer.

    "many requests were also for information that was freely available on council websites"

    On an unlinked page, with black text on black, locked with a password of BewareOfTheLeppard

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the aim of limiting or reducing FOI

    I think a couple of the previous OP's were dead right.

    Most of the example questions were IMO perfectly legitimate.

    So how much money HAVE the council wasted on exorcisms/paranormal investigations pandering to the terminally superstitious? None? well good for them.

    Chipped any kids? no? again good for them, but given the normal council's control freakery not a completely outlandish question to ask.

    Asteroid strike? "well yes we've wasted £10,000 on a consultant to tell us what to do, i.e. put our heads between our knees and kiss our asses goodbye" maybe not true but I've seen councils waste money on even more stupid ideas.

    1. Fluffy Bunny
      Angel

      Re: the aim of limiting or reducing FOI

      "I've seen councils waste money on even more stupid ideas" - musical cycle paths that break in a couple of days, anyone?

  11. ZanzibarRastapopulous Silver badge

    Council Exorcists.

    Unfortunately councils HAVE wasted resources on exorcists:- http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7240405.stm

    "A psychic was paid £60 by a council to rid a County Durham home of a "poltergeist" after ghostly goings-on."

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Council Exorcists.

      I'm in mixed feelings about that. While the exorcist clearly didn't actually do anything, it did clearly save the council the hassle of moving a bunch of superstitious idiots to another house which would probably have cost them a lot more. :/

    2. Captain DaFt

      Re: Council Exorcists.

      "A psychic was paid £60 by a council to rid a County Durham home of a "poltergeist" after ghostly goings-on."

      Meh, I would have done it for a free lunch.

      I can absolutely guarantee that no house I have ever been in has ever demonstrated provable supernatural phenomenon afterwards*.

      *Or previous to my visit for that matter, but people hate to hear that!

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Council Exorcists.

        "I can absolutely guarantee that no house I have ever been in has ever demonstrated provable supernatural phenomenon afterwards*."

        Smart arse arrogant bastard!

        Signed,

        Your Great, Great, Great Granddad.

  12. xyz Silver badge

    I think it's best to err on the side of caution...

    ...and keep asking "dumb" questions. I know of one government dept that did something so unbelievable that you would imagine it was an urban myth. I can't even mention it, but it was a pant wetter. Official bodies are usually only a few committee meetings away from circling the drain of chaos and sometimes they plop in before they realise it.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: I think it's best to err on the side of caution...

      If it's the aircraft carriers that can't have a catapult to launch planes and can't land VTOL ones - we have all heard it.

  13. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Meteorite strike

    Given the amount of building damage and broken glass in Siberia last year, there's some merit in asking such questions - but it's on par with preparedness for a richter 6 earthquake.

    (Don't laugh: The Southeast of England has a history of quakes this size and the last one happened before brick buildings were common: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1580_Dover_Straits_earthquake )

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Meteorite strike

      I'm guessing they only think the meteorite question is stupid because the clairvoyant they retain at the 'special consultant rate' couldn't see it happening as long as they keep renewing their annual contract for lucky heather.

  14. James Loughner
    Coat

    Easy pezee

    Dragon call St George

    Meteor kiss ass good buy

    1. hplasm
      Go

      Re: Easy pezee

      Thanks- here is your £143,000 retainer fee.

  15. Mephistro
    Angel

    "Ghosts are also a hot topic for Brits, with Rossendale Council answering questions on how many times it had paid for an exorcist, psychic or religious healer ..."

    You all may scoff at this, but it's a real problem!. I personally have been haunted by a ghostly apparition every morning since I was twelve. Watching your bed sheet elevating by itself when you aren't yet totally awake is a distressing experience!

    1. Elmer Phud

      Rising spectre

      Was ectoplasm involved?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Rising spectre

        Or was it wind?

      2. Mephistro

        Re: Rising spectre

        "Was ectoplasm involved?"

        "Or was it wind"

        Both things, sometimes simultaneously. The horror! The horror!!!

  16. Chris G Silver badge

    Terminological Inexactitude

    I wonder if an FOI request would reveal whether councils have regulations against their spokesmen making terminological inexactitudes;

    ""Local authorities are the most transparent part of the public sector. People only need to log on to their council website right now to see more information on where their council spends money than has ever been published before,” he said in a canned statement."

    I know one of the largest South London Boroughs was very fond of closed chambers secret sessions with no press or public notice never mind observation.

    'More information...... than has ever been published before' not ALL Information note.

  17. Elmer Phud

    Dragone

    If Dragons tend to speak remarkably like Mr Connery(I've seen it on telly so it's true) they may have moved to somewhere with more advantageous tax regime.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Dragone

      Would dragons be repatriated to an independent Scotland?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Dragone

        "Would dragons be repatriated to an independent Scotland?"

        That's about as likely as Laird Connary of Connary moving back "home"

  18. Notabot
    Alert

    Boo Hoo

    How about answering legitimate queries for a start?

    Such as 'Can you reveal which department the member of staff who was tampering with a community campaign Wikipedia page belongs to please?' (We caught them red handed from the local council proxy address)

    That was stalled, refused and eventually wormed out of so they did not have to admit they were biased. A-holios..

  19. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Take a note from the US

    Our government has published info on the "Zombie Apocalypse". They've even published the info on the US Army's training for it. No need for an FoI request on that one.

    1. sisk

      Re: Take a note from the US

      To be fair the Zombie Apocalypse thing was a general disaster prep guide written by a CDC staffer with a sense of humor (and serves as the only publicly accessible proof that such people do, in fact, exist). Seriously, that guide works just as well for a flood, tornado, or earthquake as it does for a zombie apocalypse.

      Also resulted in the total collapse of the CDC's public network due to a sudden 10,000ish fold increase in incoming web traffic when it went viral, so it's perhaps not the best idea to emulate.

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: Take a note from the US

        Also resulted in the total collapse of the CDC's public network due to a sudden 10,000ish fold increase in incoming web traffic when it went viral, so it's perhaps not the best idea to emulate.

        Call me crazy, but shouldn't the public website of a body that prepares for disasters be somewhat capable of sustaining a sudden peak in traffic, such as might occur after a disaster?

        1. sisk

          Re: Take a note from the US

          Call me crazy, but shouldn't the public website of a body that prepares for disasters be somewhat capable of sustaining a sudden peak in traffic, such as might occur after a disaster?

          You'd think. Technically though the CDC only has responsibility for outbreaks of disease, which very rarely happen over night. FEMA would be the agency in charge of the types of natural disasters that are usually sudden and unexpected. Contagions tend to not be so sudden. Even the ones that hit public awareness very rapidly don't usually cause such a huge spike in CDC's traffic.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Use a Harrier against the dragon!

    Now you just made me picture a freaking Michael Bay movie, with a AV-8 Harrier and a F35-B ducking it out against a fire-breathing dragon.

    Both jets open fire with machine guns, to which the dragon burns the bullets off the sky. Now both shoots their heat-seeking missiles, but the dragon manages to pick one up with his claws, bites the warhead off, and sends it back, while dodging the other. All three twirling and looping around in the meantime.

    Now I'm gonna need to watch the entire Transformers and Die Hard series to forget it. Thank you.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Use a Harrier against the dragon!

      Not sure what Transformers and Die Hard have in common, beyond the fact that they're both f/x ladled action movies... but I'd say you've watched just about enough of those.

  21. alwarming
    Trollface

    It's a code really.

    Dragon = China.

    Asteroid = Missiles

    Ghosts = Hacker

    Now re-read the article and see how your govt is deliberately ignoring your concerns and trying to make you lot look like a fool.

  22. Bob Dunlop

    Open council web sites. Secret bin collections

    Not so long ago Basingstoke and Deane required you to set up an account on their web site (providing numerous personal details like inside leg measurement) just to get the bin collection schedule. We'd phone the office and get them to send us a printed copy, no doubt at great expense, rather than fill in all the details.

    The issue is now fixed and the bin schedules are open to public scrutiny, but what where they thinking ?

    1. breakfast

      Re: Open council web sites. Secret bin collections

      One does not simply walk into Basingstoke and find when the bins are going to be collected.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Open council web sites. Secret bin collections

        Too right! The terrorists could use that in some double dastardly attack on neighbourhood recycling centres. One cannot be too careful. Please think of the children.

  23. Shaha Alam

    "Ghosts are also a hot topic for Brits, with Rossendale Council answering questions on how many times it had paid for an exorcist, psychic or religious healer and whether their services were used to exorcise kids, adults, pets or buildings, while Birmingham was asked how many requests were made to bring “ghost investigators” into public buildings like museums."

    I don't see the problem here. I too would like to know how many times my local council had paid for any of that stuff. I'd certainly be annoyed if it was more than zero.

  24. Ugotta B. Kiddingme
    Go

    dafter comment thread than usual

    I heartily approve. Well done one and all.

  25. Joe 48

    I'm disappointed

    No Zombie attack plan requests!!

    I'm off to fill in an FOI request. Need to know I'm safe... and when the bins might be collected....

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bring on yer (bleeping) dragons!

    I for one am READY for the damn dragons, so bring 'em on. I hear dragon skin makes excellent leather. There's a company here in the armed-to-the-teeth US of A which makes a parts kit that allows you to take a pair of Ruger 10-22 rifles and assemble them into a mini-gatling gun. It isn't classified as a machine gun because you have to hand crank it (fitting an electric motor will likely get you charged with a felony). I have a pair of SKS rifles (7.62mm) each with a 30 round banana clip - and 100% legal. Now, if I were to buy this mini-gatling-gun kit and adapt the SKS rifles to it, I'd be able to fire 60 rounds in about three seconds. If that doesn't seriously discourage any curious dragons, I can also buy 100 round drum magazines (also 100% legal) which are spring wound, and then I'd have 200 or so holes in the dragon in under ten seconds. I reiterate: All this is absolutely legal here. Only problem is that a dragon skin with 200 holes in it (or 400, remember, many of these rounds will go right out the other side) is going to look more like a sieve than a hide, and it may thus be difficult to make anything larger than a key fob out of it. If I were really, REALLY mad at the dragons ("I'll teach YOU to crap on my car!"), I'd hand this delightful device to my wife - she used to work for the post office and you know how they get when you piss them off.

  27. sisk

    What are your plans to respond to an asteroid impact?

    Suggested answer:

    In the aftermath of an impact event within the council's area of influence large enough to warrant a response from your town council it will be dissolved. As will the council members. And town hall. And the town. You might escape dissolution should you be fortunate enough to be on vacation at the time.

    1. Triggerfish

      Re: What are your plans to respond to an asteroid impact?

      1. Please take up the position of "on all fours".

      2. Find a loved one or if they are not available a colleague to do the same.

      3. Make them take up the same position but to the side of you and facing in the opposite direction.

      4. You can now kiss each others arse goodbye.

  28. Stretch

    Backwards...

    These requests are very important.

    They are not asked because the Requester believes an asteroid impact is likely.

    They are asked because councils pissing money away on nonsense and then hiding it in the accounts is VERY likely.

    And the only way to find out is to ask specifically in a FOI request. Otherwise the £14M spent on zombie rodent prevention, with fact finding trips to the Caribbean, will go down as Miscellaneous Pest Control.

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