FOI Friday: Cops on desk duty, idle ambulances, data losses, council refurbishments and schoolchild crimes

'Ello, 'Ello, 'Ello - are you on the frontline or not?

Coppers on desk duty

The debate rages on about whether government cuts are going to hit frontline services or the just the fabled bloated back offices and the Manchester Evening News came up with a new angle into the discussion this week: the number of frontline police officers on the desk duties through illness. In total, 7per cent of the force’s police officers are on restrictive duties.  (Source: Manchester Evening News)

Arrests for ‘extreme porn’

There’s a newish offence of extreme pornography – and the Brighton Argus was quick off the mark to report on an FOI about the first arrests made under the law. According to their FOI request, three men were arrested on possession of extreme pornography. (Source: Brighton Argus)

Idle ambulances

Ambulances in Gwent, in South Wales, spent 20,000 hours over the last two years hanging around due to delays at hospitals, or 868 days. The cost is about £1.5million. Lost time is defined as anything above 20 minutes, and this information has to be recorded by ambulance trusts. Asking for the number of occasions an ambulance was delayed could also pay dividends. (Source: South Wales Argus)

Data losses on the police force

Lost data stories often make the headlines through FOI but have often centred on councils losing data or parts of the health service. The Echo in Gloucestershire reports on data its police force has lost – including 999 call recordings and laptops with details of criminal investigations on them. (Source: Gloucestershire Echo)

Thefts from churches

In Sedgemoor, in the West Country, there were 10 thefts from churches in the last year. Ok, so the number may sound small, but in context of a small place it might well worry people. It’s also a good example of using FOI to extract data from police databases, which often work on search terms. (Source:

Council refurbishments

We all know councils are feeling the squeeze at the moment – and quite painfully too. But I’m sure this won’t be the only FOI which seeks to probe spending over recent years to find out if it’s all justified. The London Evening Standard used FOI to find out how much London councils had spent on refurbishments: £30million in total. As ever, the devil was in the detail. (Source: London Evening Standard)

Snow joke for learner drivers

An unusual take on the impact snow has on an area – the Grimsby Telegraph used FOI to find out how many driving tests had to be cancelled due to recent bad weather, and the knock on effect it was having on people trying to book in for tests now. The information came from the DVLA. (Source: Grimsby Telegraph)

Schoolchild crimes

A different take on the well-trodden ‘child crimes’ FOI from the Edinburgh Evening News, which reports on how more than 200 school-aged children were charged with offences by the police last year. (Source: Edinburgh Evening News)

Percentage of speed cameras switched off at any one time

Speed camera FOIs might be becoming a bit of an obsession on this blog so this one was always going to make this week’s list. The Press and Journal reported on the fact that two thirds of speed cameras are switched off at any one time. (Source: Aberdeen Press and Journal)

Car allowances for top council officers

Council press offices hate it when newspapers take two seemingly unrelated stories and tie them up, so I imagine this intro in the Staffordshire Newsletter went down like a bucket of sick in the press office at Staffordshire County Council:

TOP officers at a council which scrapped free buses for pensioners are costing taxpayers £277,000 a year in car allowances.

Linkage of unrelated stories aside, an FOI which looks at the perks enjoyed by top officers is rather timely. (Source: Staffordshire Newsletter)


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