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

Speed camera fines

A big success for the Salford Advertiser this week when it received a list of the top 10 money-spinning speed cameras in the area, including the amount each one had raised and the number of tickets issued. Why is this a big success? Because some speed cameras bodies – sorry, ‘speed awareness partnerships’ – won’t release this information on the grounds it might affect their ability to solve crime – ie make people aware of the fact the camera is switched on.

Police hoax calls

Some police forces are quite good at releasing details of hoax calls, knowing it’ll make the news. At others, FOI requests do that job. The  South Wales Echo reports this week on an FOI request sent to police asking for details of hoax calls. Presumably, reports or logs of these calls and their contents are kept, and from this the story comes.

Renting out the parks

The Edinburgh Evening News reports on how much the city council made from renting out its parks for big events, such as festivals and sports meets – some £285,000 a year.

Double dipping civil servants

One of those FOIs which involves you having to know a bit about the subject to be able to ask information about it. Did you know civil servants in some cases can begin drawing a pension while still working? Apparently so – and the Stoke Sentinel reports on the impact it is having in its area.

Race hate crimes

A different take on asking for crime numbers under FOI emerges from the Exeter Express and Echo newspaper. It sought to find out the number of race hate crimes in the city in the last three years – and also how many crimes overall as a percentage were race hate crimes. The answers showed that not only was the level of race hate crime rising, the percentage of crime overall related to race hate was also on the up.

Speeding buses

The Edinburgh Evening News used FOI to find out how many tickets were issued for speeding or jumping red lights to drivers of buses in the city – and also obtained the most common location for where these tickets are issued.

The Freedom Pass Revolt

According to the Hounslow Chronicle, councils in London have started to get tougher about who receives a freedom pass – the transport pass which enables pensioners and people with disabilities to travel for free in London. In one case, someone was told ‘they were no longer deaf enough’ to receive the pass. So the Chronicle used FOI to find out how people had been denied replacement passes when their existing one had expired, and how many of those people had won a replacement on appeal. The answer: 40%.

Recruitment and retention bonuses for council staff

Fascinating stuff from the Kent Messenger, which used FOI to establish how often rentention payments were made to staff to stop them leaving, and how often recruitment payments were made to encourage people to take jobs at Kenty County Council. Some £1.5million has been spent in this way in two years.

Soaring accident and emergency attendance levels

Out-of-hours GP cover is a big story in many parts of the country. The Cambridge News used FOI to find out the impact low cover out-of-hours had on the accident and emergency attendances at hospitals in the area. Not surprisingly, the figures were up 26% after out-of-hours cover was reduced.

The price of the smoking ban

A good example of finding out the impact of legislation this week from the Croydon Guardian. It asked how much Wandsworth Council had spent on enforcing the smoking ban. The answer: £207,000 – but not a single prosecution.


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