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

1. Lost in the post

A intersting FOI from the Edinburgh Evening News to kick off this week’s FOI Friday. The paper used FOI to request information from the Royal Mail about the number of complaints made about damaged, missing or lost post in the Edinburgh postcode area. The figures show £130,000 was paid out and 50 complaints made a day.

2. School sickness

The number of teaching days lost due to staff sickness in Oldham’s schools was just the tip of an FOI iceberg uncovered by the Oldham Advertiser, which also asked how much was spent on cover staff and asked for a list of which schools spent the most. All the information came from the local authority. The Liverpool Daily Post also ran a similar story this week, with the LDP crediting Whatdotheyknow for its information.

3. How much to police the police?

The Brighton Argus reports on the £300,000 a year bill to employ security guards to secure its buildings. That’s the bill for three buildings – and the suggestion now is that the money could be better spent on more constables, with officers not fully fit to be out on the beat asked to cover buildings instead.

4. The cost of suspended staff

A good mix of numbers from an Essex Echo story looking at the number of staff suspended by a mental health trust and the amount they were paid in wages while absent.

5. Trips and slips claims

Trips and slips claims were all the rage in the news a few years ago, but the Hounslow Chronicle now has used FOI to see how much of a problem it is now. The figures for claims have gone down – despite the best efforts of those TV adverts.

6. ‘Adverse incidents’ at the ambulance service

A fascinating FOI from the BBC in Cambridgeshire which accessed details of investigations carried out under the Ambulance Service’s ‘Adverse Incident Reporting System.’ It found two cases  where morphine had been administered which nearly cost patients their lives. Both cases also generated Serious Untoward Incident reports which go to the regional strategic health authority, so that might be another way to access that information.

7. The cost of keeping councillors plugged in

An interesting request under FOI to Leeds Council from the Yorkshire Evening Post, which revealed almost £250,000 is spent on laptops and internet connections to keep councillors online. It’s the breakdown of those figures which makes the story so telling – £767 per councillor, per year, for internet line rental for example? Someone seems to be struggling to get good value!

8. Bus crashes

If you live in an area with a public transport authority area, then it’s worth remembering that they too are subject to FOI. Transport for London is a little different to the PTEs around the country but, in theory, it’s similar. So this story from the Croydon Advertiser should be of interest: The number of crashes involving buses.

9. Top student roads

The York Press reports on an FOI request made by a parish council concerned at how many houses were becoming student houses. Such houses are exempt from council tax, and as a result The York Press is able to report on the growth in the number of student houses in recent years, and the streets with the highest number of student homes.

10. Serious crimes and the cautions they receive

Good work from the Huddersfield Examiner on the issue of serious crimes which result in just cautions being issued. Some of the numbers are quite staggering. There’s also a strong leader in the Examiner which sets out explain to readers why FOI is important and why the paper will keep using it.

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