FOI Friday: Second jobs for firemen, missing art, teens on drugs and CCTV in schools

1. Second jobs for firemen

We’ve seen FOI requests asking for the second jobs for policemen, but the Manchester Evening News this week reported on the second jobs held by firemen in Greater Manchester, of which there appear to be quite a number:

As well as trades such as plasterers or joiners, some are working as butchers, florists, and herdsmen. One fireman was a ‘semi-pro football player’, while one of his colleagues worked as a TV extra. Another firefighter gave his job title as the ‘proprietor of a bouncy castle business’.

2. Attacks on council staff

A good example of widening out an FOI request to get interesting results comes from the Croydon Advertiser, which asked the council for details of attacks on all staff – as opposed to, say, just teachers. The figures which came back weren’t that high, but the details of the attacks led to a good story, not least the one about a traffic warden almost run over after issuing a ticket.

3. Drug abuse among soldiers

Writing negative stories about the armed forces is always interesting territory for any newspaper, but the Western Mail’s FOI-based story which revealed the number of cases of drug abuse among Welsh army regiments was certainly interesting reading.

4. Missing Art

The Whitby Gazette reports on information, which I think was asked for under FOI by a third party rather than the paper, surrounding missing works of art which should be in the local council’s collection. Some 23 artefacts are missing.

5. Self harm among young people

The Dorset Echo demonstrates well that numbers from an FOI request aren’t the be all and end all of a story. It used FOI to find out how many young people were admitted to hospital for self-harming – 140 at least – but then added a human interest dimension by speaking to those with personal experience to explain what needs to be done to help young people.

6. Teenage drugs ODs in hospitals

Sticking with the hospital theme, the Evening Chronicle in Newcastle reports on the number of drug overdose cases involving teenagers in Newcastle hospitals – includng a child aged three:

Four hospital Trusts revealed 56 children aged 17 and under have needed emergency treatment for heroin and cocaine poisoning over the past five years.
A lot of hard work appears to have gone into this York Press investigation to find out how many schools in the York area use CCTV and what they use it for. They also asked if parents were informed the cameras exist. Half were using CCTV, and many didn’t tell parents. It looks as though the Press FOI’d every secondary school, which can be quite a task.

8. How much do unions cost the tax payer?

A story which has the ability to become political dynamite if repeated elsewhere – how much public sector money is spent on union activites. Put another way, the amount of work time spent, by union reps, on union duties:

The eight organisations that responded to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Alliance were NHS Eastern and Coastal Kent, NHS West Kent, East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust, Kent Fire and Rescue Service, and Ashford, Canterbury and Gravesham councils.

Based on the estimated staff time lost to union duties, Kent and Medway Social Care Partnership paid the most in wages at £70,418 – the equivalent of 2.6 full-time union reps.

NHS Eastern and Coastal paid £58,230 while Kent Fire paid £37,375.

David Lloyd – secretary for the Kent branch of Unison – said taxpayers’ cash was put to good use on behalf of public services.

He may be right but will the public agree?

9. Fuel thefts

A sign of the times, maybe, from the Express and Star in Wolverhampton which reports on the rise in fuel thefts in the West Midlands – down to the recession?

West Midlands Police recorded 2,331 thefts of petrol from stations between April and August this year across the force area. This figure contrasts with 1,135 thefts for the same period in 2009, according to figures released through a Freedom of Information request.
A great story to end this week from the Aldershot Mail which used FOI to get hold of a report which stated how likely officers were to report a colleague for an offence. It would appear many would turn a blind eye to excessive force, but would report bribery.



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