Asking if they can keep a crocodile in their back garden, seeking tips on how to marinade a juicy steak and trying to get their TV reception fixed are just some of the more unusual queries council contact centres are having to deal with.
Council customer service centres handle more than 50 million calls each year, most of which are from people wanting information about council tax, environmental services or parking.
Others leave council contact centre advisors scratching their heads and sometimes struggling to keep a straight face.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, have revealed some of the more bizarre and quirky examples and a top 10 list from the past 12 months.
They include one caller who left customer service staff at Reigate and Banstead Council stumped by asking how long they need to leave an egg under a lamp for it to hatch, meanwhile Watford Council was asked to collect an exhausted homing pigeon that had landed in a back garden in order to get it back to its owner.
In Warwickshire, calls have included someone asking if they need to take their photos of crop circles off the internet to protect national security, while staff at Newark and Sherwood District Council were left perplexed when asked by a resident if they knew how to grow mangoes.
Cllr Peter Fleming, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Improvement and Innovation Board, said: “These light-hearted examples show the wide range of issues council staff deal with each day. Councils literally have to be ready for anything from the serious to the mundane and sometimes even mind-boggling.
“Councils try to help callers with support and advice as much as they possibly can. While the vast majority of calls fall within the bounds of councils’ usual responsibilities, there are occasions when call handlers are left baffled.
“The fact that councils are so often the first port of call for residents who are seeking a solution to their problems shows just how central a role councils play in the lives of their communities. While councils offer more than 800 local services, some requests really are beyond them.”
Top 10 bizarre calls to councils:
1. Are there any regulations on keeping a crocodile in my back garden?
2. Can you teach me how to use a chain-saw?
3. Do you know where I could get an old bath that I could fill with custard?
4. Can you send a pest control officer to remove a frog from the bottom of the communal stairs in my block of flats?
5. Am I allowed to bury my horse in my back garden?
6. “I’ve tried the number given on your website for the library but it doesn’t work.” “What was the number?” “0900 1800” “I’m sorry those are the times the library is open between…”
7. How can I get permission to pitch a tent on the central reservation of the A35 trunk road? (Derby City Council)
8. How do you make a marinade to put on my barbecue steaks?
9. A lady rang to say she couldn’t get any reception on her TV. She’d already contacted the police and the fire brigade but they couldn’t help, so she called the council
10. Can you remove all porn from the internet?