1. Stolen warrant cards

The Yorkshire Post used the Freedom of Information Act to find out how many warrant cards had been lost or stolen by officers in Yorkshire in recent years. The answer: 370. Why are warrant cards particularly important? According to the paper:

Just over a week ago a gang of distraction burglars were jailed for 21 years after tricking their way into the homes of residents in their 70s, 80s and 90s in Scarborough, York and Boston Spa by posing as police officers.

(Source: Yorkshire Post)

2. 3,353 years off sick

With council cuts looming large left, right and centre, the Sunday Sun in Newcastle used FOI to find out how many days were lost due to sickness in councils. The answer was 3,353 years of sick days lost in one year – with hundreds of people off for more than six months. According to union leaders, the current cuts will only make the problem worse:

Union leaders and stress experts say rising workloads, financial strains and the looming threat of job cuts is putting unbearable pressures on the workers.

(Source: Sunday Sun)

3. Payouts to the victims of Derrick Bird

Ahead of the Derrick Bird shooting inquests, the Daily Mirror had this story: the amount paid out by the Ministry of Justice’s Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority to the relatives of the victims of Bird. The average amount works out at £12k. (Source: Daily Mirror)

4. Using FOI to challenge ‘savings’

The Lancashire Evening Post used FOI to challenge suggestions by Lancashire County Council that it would be saving money by closing five of its childrens’ care homes. The LEP, through FOI, was able to establish the average cost of placement in a council-run care home was under £2k, whereas placing children in private homes, often outside Lancashire, cost upwards of £3k. (Source: Lancashire Evening Post)

5. Noisy students

Using FOI, the Newcastle Evening Chronicle has been able to report how many noise complaints are being made in Jesmond and Heaton – the two most studenty areas of Newcastle: Five complaints a day – or 1,872 complaints a year (Source: Newcastle Evening Chronicle)

6. Arrests of foreign nationals

Like many police forces, Cambridgeshire Police is facing up to cuts, but figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show it is facing a growing problem with arresting foreign nationals. This FOI could be used anywhere:

There were 4,803 reports of crimes linked to non-British citizens in Cambridgeshire last year, an increase from 4,380 in 2009, 3,316 in 2008 and 1,850 in 2007.

Violent offences numbered 1,374 last year, 1,196 in 2009, 859 in 2008 and 510 in 2007.

(Source: Cambridge Evening News)

7. The cost of PR

If you ran a council which had 20 officers employed as communication officers, how much would you need to spend on external PR advice? My suggestion would be not very much, but that isn’t the case in Luton:

THOUSANDS of pounds of taxpayers’ cash has been spent on hiring a public relations guru for Luton Borough Council, despite the authority having a 20-strong communications team of its own.

The council has paid communications consultant Michele Smith a total of £167,000 over the past five years, a Freedom of Information request has shown.

In the 2009/10 financial year, Michele Smith Communications was paid more than £47,000 by the council, with one individual invoice for ‘PR cover’ coming in at more than £5,000.

At a time of cutbacks, FOI has the ability to be a very powerful tool. (Source: Luton Today)

8. Failed community orders

Community orders are the, er, order of the day at the Ministry of Justice which is keen to reduce the number of people being sent to prison. The Croydon Advertiser used FOI to find out how well enforced they were in Croydon. It turns out two thirds were broken before completion. (Source: Croydon Advertiser)

9. Spending on agency teachers

Sticking with the Croydon Advertiser, it used FOI to name the schools which spent the most on agency teachers. This is a good example of how FOI and data can merge merrily, providing information useful to readers – many parents may have their decision on which school to send their child to influenced by how frequently regular staff are off. (Source:  Croydon Advertiser)

10. Out of date drugs in ambulances

The Western Morning News reports on a catalogue of cases where out-of-date drugs were found in ambulances, as well as cases where life-saving equipment had flat batteries. It used FOI to ask the ambulance service for details of the reports paramedics fill in at the start of every shift. (Source: Western Morning News)


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