Council dragon attack plans - and other unusual information requests

A dragon breathes fire from atop Gringnotts Bank during a preview of Diagon Alley at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando A dragon breathes fire at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida - but one Wigan resident is worried about the reality of such an attack there

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How a council might protect a town from a dragon attack is among the most unusual requests for information received by England and Wales councils.

One council was asked how many children were micro-chipped, while another was quizzed on whether it had paid for exorcisms on possessed pets.

They are among the Local Government Association's top 10 most unusual Freedom of Information requests.

The LGA said some were a "distraction" that could waste taxpayers' money.

The Freedom of Information Act was introduced in 2000 and allows the public the right to access recorded information held by public bodies.

But not every inquiry has an obvious public interest.

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A Tiger walks in an enclosure at the "ZOOM" Zoo in Gelsenkirchen, western Germany One council was asked how many people had a licence to keep a tiger as a pet
The top 10:
  1. What plans are in place to protect the town from a dragon attack? (Wigan Council)
  2. Please list all the types of animals you have frozen since March 2012, including the type and quantity of each animal. (Cambridge City Council)
  3. How many times has the council paid for the services of an exorcist, psychic or religious healer? Were the services performed on an adult, child, pet or building? (Rossendale Council)
  4. Please can you let me know how many roundabouts are located within your council boundaries. (Leicestershire County Council)
  5. What precautions, preparations, planning and costings have been undertaken in the case an asteroid crashes into Worthing, a meteorite landing in Worthing or solar activity disrupting electromagnetic fields? (Worthing Borough Council)
  6. How many holes in privacy walls between cubicles have been found in public toilets and within council buildings in the last 10 years? (Rossendale Council)
  7. How many bodies are there in mortuaries that have been unclaimed for 10 years? How long have these bodies been in the mortuary? How old were they when they died? Is it possible to have the names of these people? (Richmond Council)
  8. How many people in the town have a licence to keep a tiger, lion, leopard, lynx or panther as a pet? (Scarborough Council)
  9. How many requests were made to council-run historic public-access buildings (e.g. museums) requesting to bring a team of "ghost investigators" into the building? (Birmingham Council)
  10. How many children in the care of the council have been micro-chipped? (Southend Council)
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Councillor Peter Fleming, chairman of the LGA's improvement board, said councils put "a lot of time and effort" into ensuring legitimate requests were met with comprehensive responses.

"While the majority of requests to councils are for details of council policy and expenditure, some of the FoI requests received do not relate very closely to the services they are focused on providing every day of the year," he said.

"Councils are working very hard to keep local communities running as efficiently as possible during these challenging financial times and anything which distracts from that can affect the value for money that taxpayers receive."

The LGA represents more than 350 councils in England and the 22 Welsh councils through the Welsh LGA.

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