FOI Friday: Legal aid for a murderer, teachers unchecked, wheelie bins and … top pothole streets

Legal aid for a man convicted of murder

The Belfast Newsletter reports on the outrage caused by revelations that £800,000 was spent on legal aid for a man convicted of murder – a figure which is expected to rise now the man concerned is expected to appeal.

In the classroom without a CRB check

The East Anglian Daily Times used FOI to ask Suffolk County Council how many teachers began teaching without having had the full criminal record checks. 61 teachers this term in 47 schools were involved, a decline on 211 last year.

Streets with the worst pothole problems

The Shields Gazette used FOI to find out how much the local council had spent fixing potholes, but also asked for the streets with the worst pothole problems, presumably determined by number of potholes which needed to be filled in.

Cost of buying wheelie bins

Councils in many areas insist on residents have wheelie bins, but appear to have a lucrative sideline in selling the bins when new people move in or when the bins are lost/stolen (‘fire in wheelie bin’ was a daily nib on several newspapers I’ve worked on). The Inverness Courier found that its local council had charged £160k from selling bins in recent years.

Complaints about council services

When a council service becomes an issue, and complaints start coming in, it’s often the job of the press office to downplay the complaints. The Bristol Evening Post got round this by asking through FOI how many complaints had been received about the new bin collection service – some five complaints an hour.

Counting shoppers in the town centre

The Bournemouth Echo used FOI to ask for details of ‘footfall’ surveys carried out by the council. This is done by many councils to see how many people visit a town centre. The Echo got the figures for each of the last few years and the number f visitors is dwindling. It’s a fascinating piece of data, and a good example of information many people wouldn’t have even though councils had.

The cost of hunting a new boss

Another angle on the impact of spending cuts, this time from the Lancashire Telegraph, which reports on how more than £30k was spent trying to find a replacement for the chief executive of the area’s Housing Market Renewal programme, despite looming cuts to its budget. The hunt was dropped in the end. This surely should be an FOI to put in whenever a new public sector boss is appointed.

More wine FOIs

Cambridge University newspaper reports on an FOI to the university which reveals the institution has a wine cellar of 25,000 bottles worth £870,000. With tuition fees in the news and universities pleading poverty if they lose government funding, could many of the FOIs previously sent to councils – art collections etc – worth aiming at universities?

The things naughty students get up to

The Cambridge News, sticking with the university, used FOI to get a list of the number of times students have been disciplined by dons in the last five years, and the reasons why. The drunk student who made sexual advances to a don made the intro.

Sex offenders on the run

And finally, The Sunday Mercury reports on the 50 sex offenders on the run in the West Midlands. I’ve mentioned this sort of FOI before, but the Mercury also asked for the number who were thought to have fled abroad – 17.

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