FOI Friday: Dog poop, online browsing, police response times and racism in schools

1. What public sector workers look at online 

I think it’s safe to say this one could run, and run, and run. A freedom of information request to the Department for Transport revealed the top 1,000 most visited websites from Department for Transport computers. Some amusing surprises in there.

2. Alternative therapies in schools  

According to a freedom of information request reported in the Birmingham Mail, schools in the city have spent £1.5million on alternative therapies for staff and pupils, including massages. The firms paid the cash was called Herriots and Millward.

3. Data Protection Act breaches in police forces

The Manchester Evening News this week revealed that a memory stick containing details of drugs informants had been stolen in a burglarly from a police officer’s house. Greater Manchester Police was so keen for the public’s help in cracking this case that it didn’t even mention it for over a week. Coincidentally, an FOI request from the Cambridge News demonstrates the value of using FOI to ask police forces for the number of Data Protection Act breaches. 12 staff were caught breaking DPA rules, including one person putting information on Facebook. If ever you’ve done the ‘lost and stolen data’ FOI, it might be worth broadening it out in future to include any DPA breaches.

4. Police response times 

The Press in York has revealed that calls to the police are taking longer to answer as a result of a new call centre. The difference is only seconds (but that’ll teach emergency services to say that every second counts) but it could well be a trend which goes up as cuts bite?

5. Weapons seized by youngsters

The Lancashire Evening Post reports on 40 weapons seized from youngsters aged between 11 and 17 in the last couple of years – with all the incidents taking place at schools. Among the weapons were rounders bats, lights, airguns and a knuckle duster. A chair and a kettle is also listed.

6. Parking revenues

Here’s a different way of looking at how the recession is having an impact on local town and city centres – by asking councils for total amounts earned in car parking charges. In Cornwall, the fall in figures are being blamed on actually putting up parking charges.

7. Racist incidents in schools

The Manchester Evening News reports on the fact there are six racist incidents a day at schools in Greater Manchester. The paper also asked how many of the cases led to disciplinary action – two thirds – what the allegations were – racist jokes, name calling and even bringing racist literature into schools – and how many cases there were at each school. Schools weren’t named, but the fact 139 cases were reported in four years at just one school is probably cause for alarm.

8. Children waiting for wheelchairs

An interesting one from Children and Young People Now. It used FOI to ask primary care trusts how long disabled children had to wait to be assessed and provided with mobility equipment, such as wheelchairs. Seven months was the longest wait – one for local investigation by newspapers too, probably.

9. Stolen from ambulances 

The Sunderland Echo reveals the items stolen from the North East Ambulance Service – ranging from morphine to a helmet, a sat nav to headlights. More than 100 thefts have been reported in the last few years.

10. Dog fouling punishments – or not 

It’s the story we know gets readers going almost more than anything else. But the Scunthorpe Telegraph has found a different take on dog fouling – asking the council to reveal how many times it has taken action against dog foulers. Answer: None.










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