FOI Friday: Speed cameras, fines in a free car park, under-aged sex and naughty BBC employees

1. Fun with speed cameras

Authorities such as councils and police forces have been very reluctant to divulge information about speed cameras in recent times. For example, West Midands Police refused to reveal which cameras made the most cash for fear of vigilante attacks on the cameras involved. But Wales on Sunday managed to get some useful information out of police forces in Wales, asking how many cameras were active (ie switched on) on a chosen date.

2. Cost of closing a development agency

For all the coalition government talk about development agencies not providing value for money, there’s been little discussion of the cost of winding them up. One way to look at the cost of closing something down is to ask for the redundancy costs. The Lancashire Telegraph reports on an FOI request which revealed the redundancy bill at the North West Development Agency currently stands at £1.8million. Every little helps, and all that….

3. Fined for parking in a free car park

The Wokingham Times, like many newspapers, FOI’d the local council to find out how many parking tickets had been issued by the council and where. But it went beyond the top-line ‘total number’ of tickets in the story which followed, pointing out some interesting facts such as the number of tickets issued in car parks which were designated as free. Local knowledge + good FOI = better story?

4. Money in the bank

At a time when councils are (rightly) pleading poverty, it’s worth asking how much they have in the bank as a result of Section 106 planning conditions – money developers have to pay the council to carry our improvements in an area as a result of a new development. For example, many councils will ask for money towards a new play park. The Bristol Evening Post did that and found there was £5million sat in the bank – it also reported where the money was meant to be spent.

5. Children put in care because they are obese

The London Evening Standard reports on how three children in one London borough, Lewisham, have been put into care because they were obese. It also cites another case in Northumberland. While the numbers may be tiny, is this an issue which could grab headlines elsewhere?

6. The Pill for schoolgirls

Millions of pounds is spent on safe sex messages every year but is it getting through? Wales on Sunday argues not after it used FOI to ask local health boards (presumably in England PCTs would hold the same information) to release how times the morning after pill had been handed out to teenagers.

7. Libraries threatened with closures see attendances rise

Good work by a campaign group in Leeds, reported by the Guardian’s Local site for Leeds. Campaigners opposing closure of libraries in the city used FOI to find out how well-used they were – the figures show attendances at the threatened libraries were going up.

8. Foreign treatment payments

The Scotsman used FOI to ask a local health authority how much it was owed by foreigners who had received treatment in the area but who hadn’t paid the bill. Some £35,000 is owed by people in Canada, the USA and Chile – with the NHS having to go to the national embassy for the cash in some cases.

9. Bonus outrage

Remember a year ago when the Learning and Skills Council managed to offer more money than it had to further education colleges for development projects? The Yorkshire Post certainly does – and used FOI to find out how much in bonuses the public sector body paid out to its senior staff. Some £10million.

10. Disciplinary cases against the BBC

An interesting breakdown of disciplinary cases at the BBC, as reported by journalism.co.uk after a Whatdotheyknow request – one that could yield good results right across the public sector?

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