FOI Friday: Expensive mayors, pensioner coppers, dirty takeaways and expensive Town Hall art

 

1. Can we afford mayors these days?

In these tight times, can councils afford to continue to fund the role of mayor? One way of finding out would be to ask how much the role of mayor has cost over the past five years. Guardian Local Leeds reports on the very detailed breakdown released via the Whatdotheyknow website after a request by a chap called Chris Lovell.

2. The cost of a council war

A good example of proof that councils can put costs on pretty much anything they do. Councils in Lancashire have been at war in recent months over Preston’s plans to build a big shopping centre. The cost of that row was revealed by the Lancashire Telegraph – some £500k has been spent on it.

3. Violence towards the police

The Wokingham Times reports on the number of verbal and physical assaults reported on police officers. The total was 30, so perhaps not as high as in other areas, but this FOI is worth mentioning in particular because it includes a breakdown of attacks by police division, which makes the numbers more relevant for local newspapers.

4. Making a mint at university

With university finances in the spotlight like never before, The Oxford Student uncovers some interesting figures – the amount Christ Church college made from hiring out its facilities over the summer for conferences. Details of accommodation costs and how much delegates pay for a meal are also included.

5. Fire brigade disciplinaries

The Halesowen News used FOI to reveal how many disciplinaries had been brought against fire officers over the last year. The figure was 57 – and the Fire Brigade Union claims the disciplinary process is being used to make cuts through the back door.


6. Top cop? Here’s a bonus

The Manchester Evening News used FOI to find out how much had been paid out in bonuses to top cops in the last couple of years – an interesting figure in light of GMP’s early announcement of big job cuts nows. More than £323,000 has been paid out in the last couple of years.

7. Underage drinking from the ambulance service

The Burton Mail extracted some good data from West Midlands Ambulance Service after asking how many alcohol-related incidents it had recorded involved under-aged drinkers. In the last three years, some 945 have been reported. A good example of getting local data from a large ambulance service.

8. Art for art’s sake?

The BBC used FOI to find out how much art councils in the South West had stashed away and how much it was worth. The total is £48million. Some, including Brian Sewell, argue it should be sold to help cover the budget holes many councils now face.

9. Pensioner coppers back on the job

Brilliant work by the Western Mail here, I think. It used FOI to find out how many officers had retired from the force with pensions only to return in civilian roles. Some 300 across Wales. The police forces argue it enables them to tap into a wealth of experience while critics claim it is effectively paying someone twice.

10, Failing in basic hygiene

And finally to Huddersfield, where the Examiner used FOI to ask for a list of all establishments which had failed to meet basic hygiene standards in inspections. The Examiner made a point of going beyond restaurants to ask for details of all establishments which are subject to hygiene inspections.

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