FOI Friday: Driving test interpreters, hospital inspection reports, school bus cuts … and getting more from police numbers

1. Driving test interpreters

We’ve seen a few FOI success stories out of the Driving Standards Agency, which runs driving test centres. The latest one, though, from the Brighton Argus, could demonstrate that the agency is the gift which keeps on giving. The Argus reports on the number of people taking their test who required an interpreter to get through their driving tests.

2. Millions spent on patient taxis

More than £4million has been spent hiring taxis to ferry patients around in the last four years, according to an FOI request reported in the Weston Mercury from Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS).

3. Getting access to hospital inspection reports

The Care Quality Commission is a public body, tasked with inspecting, among other things, hospitals. So on one hand, it’s a poor do to hear that the Hull Daily Mail had to use FOI to get hold of a report carried out about a maternity ward – but, on the other hand, it’s proof FOI works – with findings revealed which perhaps explain why the hospital wasn’t more open with it in the first place.

4. School bus cuts

An interesting FOI request from the Campaign for Better Transport which reveals, under FOI, asked councils for details of any cuts to school bus services as a result of spending cuts in general. It turns out 75% of councils are cutting some school bus routes. Given the CBT has now done the hard work, it should be possible for councils to release their information quickly.

5. Taxi vehicle checks

As well as being subject to the same laws as the rest of us, it appears taxi drivers also have to adhere to a points system from councils every time they are caught doing something they shouldn’t be – talking on a mobile phone, operating with faulty tyres and so on. Get Bracknell reports that 180 instances of drivers breaking rules were reported by the council last year. Taxi drivers can get 12 points in a year before going before licensing bosses – four managed that feat last year.

6. The things which go missing in police stations

Back to the Weston Mercury, and an amusing FOI request which asked for a list of the things which went ‘missing’ at local police stations. Radios, satnavs, a pressure washer, a fire extinguisher, a police helmet and some butter – all these items went missing from Avon and Somerset police stations in the past 12 months.

7. Pauper’s funerals

A sad sign of the times maybe, in figures revealed by older peoples charity Anchor, which used FOI to ask how many state-funded funerals have been paid for by councils in recent times. The number is rising. Several regional newspapers have already done this FOI, but it’s one which will be coming up in other areas.

8. Digging into public sector pensions

A topical time to look at public sector pensions? Maybe. Finding the local council which administers pensions in your region is a start. Walesonline took at look at the highest-paying pensions.

9. House Seats

Here’s an interesting one dug up on Whatdotheyknow – the number of ‘house seats’ – ie ones not put on sale in case they are needed as a freebie – at venues run by councils. There are fair few held back by Bradford Council – proving that ‘sold out’ doesn’t always mean ‘sold out’?

10. Location of knife attacks in Camden

And another from Whatdotheyknow – asking the Met Police for the locations and dates of every knife crime in Camden. Worth remembering for journalists asking for trawls of police files for certain types of crimes – locations and dates make a story so much better.


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