FOI Friday: 10 things we’ve learnt this week thanks to the Freedom of Information Act

Christie Hospital

Accessing petitions

Here’s an unusual one to kick us off this week, submitted not by a newspaper or journalist, but by a political party. I try and steer clear of political FOIs because they are, by their nature, one-sided, but it’s the information Labour got that interests me here. Not numbers or stats, but a copy of a petition sent to the Christie Hospital in Manchester in 2005. Labour wanted it because it was a petition organised by the Lib Dems in 2005 to campaign against the closure of The Christie, something Labour said was never on the cards anyway. What did Labour want with the petition? To write to all those who signed it – revenge on the Lib Dems, five years on. Data breach somewhere? Presumably not, because it’s a public document. Could it be a way for journalists to get information?

Pothole problems

Everyone loves to grumble about potholes, and councils will often say the problem is not what complainers make it out to be – so the Express and Echo in Exeter asked the local council how much they were paying out in compo to people who said their cars had been damaged by potholes. Turns out they’re shelling out three times as much as they were three years ago.

Kitchen problems at hospitals

A variant on the pest control FOIs here – the Express and Echo in Exeter  (again!) asked the local council for copies of the kitchen hygiene reports from the local hospital – and it turned out there had been cases where  food wasn’t being stored at the right temperature.

Council staff sacked for being sick

The Stoke Sentinel reports on how FOI has uncovered that more than 300 people have been sacked from Stoke City Council in the past three years due to ill health. It also has the other reasons for dismissals, but ill health appears to rule as the top reason for getting the chop.

A revolving door policy

Asking about accidents recorded on a council’s premises paid dividends for the Surrey Herald when it learnt that 14 people had been injured by one revolving door at Runnymeade Council. Lots of detail released too, including ages and injuries.

School expulsions

Did you know that members of the panels which decide whether children should be excluded are supposed to have training? It certainly came as a surprise to many in Harrow, where the number of school expulsions have been the trigger for an FOI into expulsion rates at schools across the area. The FOI request, by a local parent (this fact is highlighted by the Harrow Observer, to its credit) was triggered by a local government ombudsman hearing which found that the expulsion panel members sometimes hadn’t undergone training.

Public money, private services

A basic requirement, you’d think, of an ambulance service is having enough ambulances to ferry people around. Apparently that’s a problem in the West Midlands, where £2.6million has been spent hiring in private ambulances, reports the Express and Star.

Health cuts

The Fulham Chronicle has been able to report on proposed cuts to the local hospital’s front-line services as a result of a spending squeeze – putting paid to the myth that doctors and nurses are protected from cuts. Perhaps worth asking other hospitals for copies of any reports they have drafted looking at similar proposals? No doubt the council-run Hammersmith and Fulham News will be covering this story in its next edition, what with it being a ‘partner’ with the NHS in many respects.

Truancy

The Government has long promised to be tough on truancy, but how tough has it been in recent times? According to Ministry of Justice figures, thousands of parents are being prosecuted, reports the Daily Mail. Worth a local look?

Unsolved murders

And finishing with the BBC this week, it has details of 77 unsolved murders in parts of Scotland after asking for how many unsolved cases are currently on the books.

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