FOI Friday: Council employee compo, eating disorders, gypsy education and spying

 1.  Employer liability claims against councils

Lancahsire County Council paid out £1,250 to a member of staff who got a bad back from carrying a heavy refreshments tray while on duty. That was one of 179 claims made against LCC, reported by the Lancashire Evening Post, over the past four years – payouts have totalled more than £2million. Perhaps the most surprising one was this one:

 £5,500 to a worker who fell out of bed responding to a phone call

2. Councils watching you 

A handy reminder of the value of returning to FOIs which may have been done elsewhere in the past. The Sunday Sun asked councils to reveal details of when they had used Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) powers to investigate members of the public.

The act means authorities can follow residents suspected of crime, trawl their internet browsing history and recruit informants and private investigators to monitor their movements. Some councils in the North even use it to snoop on their own staff.

3. Children with eating disorders

Bedfordshire on Sunday carried a worrying report on how eating disorders among young children was on the rise. It obtained the information by asking the South Essex Partnership Trust – the mental health trust for the area – for details of the numbers of cases, the sex of each case, and the age. The youngest were six and seven.

4. Education costs for traveller children

Covering stories about gypsies can be contentious, but this one could be worth exploring: The cost of providing education support for children from traveller families. That’s what the Brighton Argus did – and found the cost had trebled in three years. 

5. The X Files

Already covered and subject of some debate over on Hold The Front Page, the Halifax Courier used FOI to ask West Yorkshire Police for details of paranormal events reported to them – 142 in five years include UFOs, witches and werewolves.

6. The cost of priests

Returning to the Brighton Argus, and an interesting set of numbers around how much schools, ambulance trusts and hospitals spend on chaplains and priests – around £100,000 a year, something which, not surprisingly, the Humanist Society isn’t keen on.

7. Forget speed cameras, try traffic light cameras

We’ve covered off FOIs about speed cameras many times before, but the Fulham Chronicle appears to have hit on a new line of investigation in this area – fines from box junction cameras or traffic light cameras. One such camera in Fulham is catching 40 people a day.

8. Homelessness on the rise

According to the Bradford Telegraph and Argus, homelessness is on the rise in Bradford, presumably as a result of the recession. The T&A got the information by asking the council how many homelessness cases it had dealt with. Details of the age groups also paint an interesting picture.

9. Councils sitting on Section 106 money

A good tale from the BBC in the east of england. The councils in the region are sitting on £241million of money demanded by councillors when it gave planning permission for developments – eg for a playground when a housing development is approved. In some cases, they’ve had to hand the money back. I’ve seen this FOI elsewhere too – it’s a national problem.

10. The quarter of a million pound bill for late books

Sometimes when you work on a larger regional newspaper, it can be a right faff to FOI multiple organisations to cover your entire area – but here is proof that it can be worth it. Back with the Sunday Sun again, and a regionalised take on the library book fines FOI. In the North, some £250,000 is due in unpaid fines – along with details of the top 50 most borrowed books in the region.


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