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

1. Delayed or cancelled operations

The Deadline News Agency in Scotland reports on an FOI request by Jackie Baillie, the shadow health minister north of the Border, which lifted the lift on the number of operations being called off each week in the country.

2. Spending on prison lessons

Levels of spending on lessons for prisoners are falling in Wales – so says the Western Mail, using figures released under FOI. The amount spent on classes has fallen 7%.

3. Lives lost needlessly at hospital

The Swindon Advertiser used FOI legislation to ask how many Serious or Untoward Incidents were reported at the local hospital over the last 16 months. The findings revealed that there were 35 such cases, nine of which resulted in the death of patients.

4. BMW drivers the fastest in Lincolnshire

The Scunthorpe Telegraph used FOI to find out how many speeding offences were recorded by the police, the fastest speed clocked and the make of car most likely to be involved in a speeding offence. BMW is the answer to the last question.

5. How much for consultants at the council?

Ok, so we’ve done consultants at the council stories before. But often, it’s just a big, fat figure – several millions of pounds often – which ends up being reported. The Herald Express in Devon, however, reports on figures released under FOI which break the charges down into daily rates for each consultancy firm involved. £900 for a day’s work anyone?

6. Fuel bills at councils

The Uxbridge Gazette asked the local council, under FOI, how big its fuel bill was. Interestingly, while the rest of us where paying out more last year than the year before, Hillingdon Council saw its bill go down. At a time of cuts, it’s safe to say these costs will come under further scrutiny.

7. Vandalism in the police cells

The Lincolnshire Echo reports this week on the number of cases of vandalism reported in police cells. Some 164 incidents across the county, apparently. Question: How do you vandalise a prison cell as surely anything used to cause damage has been taken off you?

8. How drugs are smuggled into prison

Proof how good a detailed question can be under FOI laws. The Edinburgh Evening News reports on the increasingly bonkers ways that drugs are being smuggled into prisons in the city.

9. Birth-related compensation payouts

If you ask hospital trusts for levels of compensation payouts, they generally refer you to the helpful NHS Litigation Authority, which will issue an overall figure. But The Scotsman has a different set of numbers to report, asking for the amount paid out in compensation for ‘birth related claims.’

10. Prison escapes

How often do prisoners escape? A simple question, but a good answer for the BBC.

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