Kicking off with a story which may not have been sourced under FOI, but which could be: The Liverpool ECHO reports on the number of properties which have been licensed for use as ‘houses of multiple occupancy’, of which just 25% had planning permission? Why is this an issue? Well, if it’s on your street, you’d want to be able protest about it, wouldn’t you?
Staying with the Liverpool ECHO, this story combines FOI and the sex trade: Asking the police how many brothels they have raided and, tellingly, what they seized when they raided the places too.
Some interesting numbers from the Wigan Evening Post, which reports, thanks to FOI, that over the past four years, Wigan Council has spent £200,000 on B&B accommodation for homeless people. A problem that’s getting worse in recession times? Apparently not – but what’s the picture elsewhere?
I love stories like this, not least because it shows how, if honest, public bodies can account for the cost of almost anything. In this case, the North West Evening Mail has uncovered that Copeland Council in Cumbria spent £7,000 designing and introducing a new logo – which, at times of cuts, will probably not go down very well.
An interesting sign of the times – thefts from farms are on the increase. In Warwickshire anyway, where the Coventry Telegraph reports on which animals have been stolen over the last three years from farms.
This is an FOI which I think I’ve featured here before – I’ve certainly used it in the past. But it’s also an example of an FOI which you can return to again and again, and continue to get remarkable answers: What offences resulted in a caution? In London, 16,000 violent offences ended up being dealt with by a caution.
Some quite remarkable numbers from the Swindon Advertiser, which asked councils to provide details on the number of days teachers took off for stress each year. In Swindon, the average is nine weeks. What I’m not sure about it is whether that number is for all teachers, or just those who took time off for stress, if that makes sense.
Sometimes, FOI enables you write sentences you’ll never write again. Take this example from the Teesside Evening Gazette, which asked the fire services for details of the animal rescues they’ve carried out over the last four years:
Teesside crews also saved a ferret jammed in a drainpipe, a sheep stranded on a cliff edge and a snake stuck down a toilet.
Flytipping stories based on FOI have been doing the rounds over the past week thanks to a blanket press release, but this story is worth singling out because it is so good. Not only does it reveal the cost of dealing with flytipping in Burnley, it also covers the type of flytipping dealt with, and also the number of prosecutions. The devil, as ever, is in the detail.
From the Daily Mirror comes this story which reveals the crimes committed by members of the army regiment which guards the Queen most frequently. It’s one which could be applied to other regiments, many of which have local connections across the country.