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

The councils which tell us to recycle – but don’t do it themselves

The Northern Echo came up with a great story thanks to FOI – asking councils how much they spent on promoting recycling. It also asked what recycling they carry out – and remarkably few composted food, recycled green waste or even made a point of recycling paper.

Groping and sexual assault in the classroom – by pupils on teachers

I found this, using Google News, on the Christian Institute site, so I’m not sure where it began life. Nationally, 305 cases of teachers being subjected to sexual abuse were reported by councils.

Cost of PR in health trusts revealed

The Express and Echo in Devon reports on how much health trusts in the county are spending on PR – some £1.1million a year, of which almost £800k is spent on employing 19 press officers. It’s not a simple ‘PR is bad’ story – it makes the suggestion, from county councillors, that in these tight times, maybe one, smaller PR unit would be more effective.

Police overtime goes £2million over budget

Sticking with the financial theme, The Bath Chronicle reports on how the local police force has gone £2million over budget. Some officers are earning more than their bosses as a result:

The starting salary for a fully trained constable was £25,317 last year, with sergeants starting on £35,610.

However, there were 1,272 constables and 90 sergeants who earned between £30,000 and £40,000, while 417 constables and 276 sergeants earned between £40,000 and £50,000.

In the £50,000 to £60,000 bracket, there were four constables and 20 sergeants. One sergeant earned between £60,000 and £70,000.

228-years worth of bed days lost in hostpials

The Coventry Telegraph brings an interesting take to an old favourite – the number of bed days lost in hospital to ‘bed blocking’ – when patients are fit enough to leave hospital but often can’t because social services haven’t sorted them out with a home etc. Expensive fines were charged to councils as a result:

HEALTHY patients have spent more than 228 YEARS waiting to be discharged from our hospitals since 2006, the Telegraph can reveal.

And delayed discharges cost the NHS in Coventry and Warwickshire at least £11 million pounds during that time, our exclusive figures show.

Council-funded trips to the theme park

I suspect this may be a dying FOI if councils really are cutting back, but the Halstead Gazette used FOI to find out how much had been spent on team-building trips in recent years at the local council. The Gazette doesn’t do the whole story online, but does reveal two trips to themeparks for staff.

The £20,000 play area which lasted 12 weeks

Not one that is instantly repeatable everywhere, but a good example of how FOI can take a story forward. The Middleton Guardian had been covering the bizarre story of a play area installed by the council which lasted just 12 weeks before the council took it down again and put it in storage, due to anti social behaviour. Thanks to FOI, the paper has now found out the cost so far – £20,000.

350 teachers charged by the police

The Scotsman reports on the 350 teachers in the Lothians area who have been charged with offences by the police.

Five teachers were charged with “crimes of violence”, and eight with offences falling into the “crimes of indecency” category, which range from rape and indecent assault to flashing.

The majority of the charges were for less serious crimes, including breach of the peace and minor assault.

However, I can’t work out whether it would have come from the police or the local education authority.

The cost of going private – to the NHS

With the cuts looming, the Belfast Telegraph has a timely story on how health trusts (primary care trusts, I suspect) spent £50million treating patients in non-NHS hospitals to keep waiting lists down.

Celebrity rich list

And finally, an old favourite which has gone everywhere. A while back, the Sunday Mercury in Birmingham used FOI to find out how much the council had spent on paying celebrities to appear at events. It was a lot. The Sunday Telegraph asked similar questions of lots of councils, and the figures were remarkable, not least the £10k paid to John Craven to go to Cumbria.

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