Preparing for a zombie attack: the tyranny of FOI

So should every public authority be preparing for this?

Entertaining story on BBC News about Leicester City Council where a worried member of the public has forced the Council to admit it is unprepared for a zombie invasion:

The authority received a Freedom of Information request which said provisions to deal with an attack, often seen in horror films, were poor. The “concerned citizen” said the possibility of such an event was one that councils should be aware of.

“We’ve had a few wacky ones before but this one did make us laugh,” said Lynn Wyeth, head of information governance. The Freedom of Information Act allows a right of access to recorded information held by public authorities. Ms Wyeth said she was unaware of any specific reference to a zombie attack in the council’s emergency plan, however some elements of it could be applied if the situation arose.

So far, so funny. But this highlights one of the fundamental problems with the Freedom of Information Act: there is no sanity test. The City Council had to respond to this as if it were any other ‘normal’ FOI request, regardless of the waste of public money in so doing. Universities up and down the country get the same kind of nonsense on a daily basis, requiring staff in all parts of the institution to waste their time searching for documentation to satisfy the requirements of the Act. Usually the request is from a lazy journalist, a conspiracy theorist, a person with a grudge or someone seeking information for commercial gain. Universities should not be subject to this Act, it serves no public interest in our context and simply wastes public money.

And, to save you asking, no, there isn’t specific provision for dealing with zombie attacks in the University of Nottingham’s incident response plan.

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3 thoughts on “Preparing for a zombie attack: the tyranny of FOI

  1. The same question came up at Staffs Uni, but on Facebook, rather through FOI. The Deputy Vice Chanellor wrote “I think we can deal with Zombies”.

    Made me feel more secure, I can tell you!

  2. “one of the fundamental problems with the Freedom of Information Act: there is no sanity test.” Worth remembering!

  3. Pingback: The Imperfect University: Free Information? | Registrarism

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