Perhaps my favourite FOI story of the year…

As a champion of public sector transparency, it’s perhaps ironic that communities secretary Eric Pickles has found spin from one of his aides unravelling somewhat.

But this is a good example of a government department playing ball with Freedom Of Information … and an example for others to follow?

From the Guardian last year:

Tory communities secretary Eric Pickles has been accused of exaggerating the size of his Russian fanbase after an aide claimed he had stopped sending autographed pictures abroad because of the huge demand.

The bizarre row broke out after the Sun claimed Pickles’ department received “dozens of emails every month from fans in Russia” requesting signed photographs.

An aide told the newspaper: “We’ve had to stop sending autographs abroad because the sheer number of requests that come in was taking up so much time. We get hundreds of these things a year.”

Labour then submitted a freedom of information request to see exactly how many requests Pickles got for signed photographs from overseas since becoming a minister. A trawl of government servers found only two items from Russians. One from 2013 read: “I will be very happy if you can send me your autograph! I will treasure it always.” A second said: “I am your big fan from Russia. Please, send me your autograph


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