Cost of social workers soars
The Eastern Daily Press used FOI to ask how much Suffolk County Council had been spending on hiring social workers. The story isn’t questioning the salaries of social workers, but the amount spent with agencies on getting the staff in, either temporary or full time. The county council spent nearly £1million with agencies last year, compared to just £300,000 three years ago.
Drinking in Portsmouth
I’ve blogged before about FOI being a means to the story, rather than the story itself. And this article from the Portsmouth News proves that approach works very well. The FOI figures on alcohol-related admissions to the local casualty department confirm the number of cases is going up, rather than down, but the stats from the FOI request are there to support a wider piece which involved spending a night out with paramedics. In other words, FOI stories need not be dry.
How busy are the armed police?
Armed police are called out four times a day across the North, according to the Sunday Sun – a total of 15,000 call outs in the last 10 years. Interestingly, the numbers in recent years have fallen a bit – not because there are fewer incidents, but because officers with tasers are sent to some incidents first.
Have you been following the curious case of Andrea Hill, the chief executive of Suffolk County Council, and the rather peculiar photos her authority paid rather a lot of money for?
If not, perhaps a bit of context first. Roy Greenslade has done some good stuff on it here.
FOI was used well to report the following:
The county’s £218,000 chief executive Andrea Hill has undergone 23 coaching sessions with a “change” guru – at a cost of more than £12,000 to the taxpayer, The Evening Star can reveal today.
There was a whole hoo-ha around the council saying it had banned the reporter who wrote the story, only for the council to backtrack quickly. Another FOI came to pass, finally, about 10 days ago, when the Evening Star in Ipswich reported the following:
More than £1,400 of taxpayers’ money was spent on the 40 pictures of Andrea Hill.
The bill for the photographs, taken at the council’s Endeavour House HQ, came to £1,474.74p and was settled in July last year – weeks before the county announced radical cost-cutting plans to shed services.
You can view the pictures on the website of the photographer who took them, Robert Johns. He travelled from Bedford to take the pictures, having, according to his blog, taken photos of Hill at her previous authority. He is her photographer of choice.
Various allegations have been thrown around since the story broke, most of them from Johns. As Greenslade noted, Johns’ first claim – that he retains the copyright on the photos and therefore the newspapers should be paying to use them – could end up in court.
Starting this week with a brilliant bit of data which will anger all drinkers and drivers – the number of short measures recorded by trading standards officers in Wales. The Western Mail used FOI to find this out from Welsh councils. The figures are very high.
The cost of council redundancies
It’s one thing, of course, for the coalition government to talk about the need to save money by cutting jobs – but quite another to do so without talking about the main cost involved: redundancy payouts. The Beford Times and Citizen reveals through FOI that the bill in Bedford is already over £2million.
The missing books at Tower Hamlets
Here’s a story you probably won’t see in East End Life, the council paid for newspaper from Tower Hamlets: The number of books which go missing from its libraries every year. The East London Advertiser asked that question under FOI: The answer was 10,000 books which hadn’t been returned to its libraries or Idea Stores (yes, you read that last bit correctly).
1. Young drugs
With drugs and young people back in the news with a vengeance as a result of recent stories about ‘miaow miaow’, The Hackney Post timed its FOI about the number of young people – people under 17 – caught in possession of drugs in recent years in the borough.
The number of 13-17 year-olds caught with drugs in the borough has risen sharply from none at all in 2005 to a peak of 208 in 2008, according to information obtained by The Hackney Post under the Freedom of Information Act 2001 – although police adit the figures only “skim the surface” of Hackney’s teenage drug problem.
Over 650 Hackney teenagers were arrested between 2005 and 2010 for drug possession, which includes 30 arrested for drug supply offences. The drugs in circulation were cocaine, crack, cannabis, crystal meth, heroin, ketamine, MDMA (ecstasy) and steroids.
2. Ambulance crashes
The Croydon Advertiser uncovers one of the unreported dangers of being a paramedic – crashes. According to the FOI request the paper put in, just shy of 60 ambulance accidents were reported last year, with the ambulance service to blame for just four – which suggests that ambulances aren’t getting the respect paramedics have come to expect.
3. Very Big Beds
A different take on the whole supersized Britain issue, as the Wigan Evening Post asked the local hospital trust how much it had spent on oversized beds for its larger patients.