FOI Friday: Social workers, noisy sewing machines, weight-loss surgery and court fines

Cost of social workers soars

The Eastern Daily Press used FOI to ask how much Suffolk County Council had been spending on hiring social workers. The story isn’t questioning the salaries of social workers, but the amount spent with agencies on getting the staff in, either temporary or full time. The county council spent nearly £1million with agencies last year, compared to just £300,000 three years ago.

Drinking in Portsmouth

I’ve blogged before about FOI being a means to the story, rather than the story itself. And this article from the Portsmouth News proves that approach works very well. The FOI figures on alcohol-related admissions to the local casualty department confirm the number of cases is going up, rather than down, but the stats from the FOI request are there to support a wider piece which involved spending a night out with paramedics. In other words, FOI stories need not be dry.

How busy are the armed police?

Armed police are called out four times a day across the North, according to the Sunday Sun – a total of 15,000 call outs in the last 10 years. Interestingly, the numbers in recent years have fallen a bit – not because there are fewer incidents, but because officers with tasers are sent to some incidents first.

Outstanding fines at courts

This one could be a bit of a gift which could keep on giving. The BBC in Suffolk asked how much was outstanding in unpaid fines – and got a figure in return of £5million from 12,000 people. The information came from Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service.

SureStart spending

The Sunday Mirror appears to have called the coalition’s bluff by using FOI to find out what impact spending cuts were having on SureStart centres – the Labour drop-in centres which the Tories promised to protect. 90% face big spending cuts in the coming year.

Big cats in Cumbria

Planning a trip to the Lake District? Beware the big cats. The North West Evening Mail reports on 30 sightings in Cumbria, reported to the police. Pumas, panthers and lynxes have all been seen, and crucially, the paper has listed all the cases.

The noise complaints people report to a council

The first of several FOI requests sourced from, the website which enables people send FOI requests more easily. We’ve seen noise complaints stories in papers before, based on FOI requests, but this request to Birmingham City Council asked for the reasons for the complaints. The results include five complaints against buskers and 10 against sewing machines.

A parking fines story which could run and run and run 

This story, I think, has the potential to be a real gem. According to the FOI request, a recent ruling against Bolton Council stated it had failed to put the right wording on parking tickets. The FOI requester pointed out to Rochdale Council that it had done the same for a long time, and asked for details of how many tickets were involved. Around £1.5million worth. One which could, again, run and run.

Library books spending

I’m not sure why library book stories are being generated by FOI so frequently, but this is a good one – the BBC asked Nottinghamshire County Council about spending on books – down 36%. Change in technology or cuts?

The weighty issue of weight loss

The Herald in Scotland reports on the rising in weight loss surgery on the NHS – with the NHS now carrying out more proceedures than the private sector.


One thought on “FOI Friday: Social workers, noisy sewing machines, weight-loss surgery and court fines

  1. On the subject of expensive Social Workers, this was Wirral Council’s solution to the problem. To replace them with unqualified staff and save money:

    BUT……Possibly as a result of failed corporate governance at the top (as found by a year long investigation by local government consultant Anna Klonowski), the council has recently had to admit to abuse towards learning disabled tenants (see point 7.1):

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