FOI Friday: Classroom languages, councillor pensions and criminals applying to be teachers

1. What land has your council sold?

Interesting stuff from the BBC in London (although finding a link to their story was very hard, so I’ve linked to one from a local newspaper which credits the BBC at least). They used FOI to ask all London councils how many plots of land they have sold off in recent years, where those plots were and how big they were. That’s surely enough to generate some local stories elesewhere.

2. Hospitals cashing in from no-win, no-fee solicitors

Admittedly, the Association of British Insurers has a vested interest putting out the results of this FOI – but at a time when car insurance premiums are on the rise, should hospitals really be allowed to make tens of thousands of pounds from injury-claim lawyers wishing to advertise in Accident and Emergency departments?

3. Hospital cuts taking their toll?

The argument against NHS cuts is that it will reduce level of care, but how can this be quantified? Cambridge First has come up with a good way – asking for details of the number of cases of ‘surgical infection’ in patients who underwent major surgery. The paper also got hold of details of the number of emergency readmissions of patients following stays in hospitals. Hospital staff say that the fact both sets of numbers are rising shows they aren’t being able to do their jobs properly.

4. Addicted mums

Interesting numbers from the Bexhill Observer which, thanks to FOI, reports on the number of mums giving birth who have what it calls ‘dangerous addictions’ – ranging from smoking to heroin.

5. The criminals applying to be teachers

This is probably the FOI I expect to see run and run now. The Stoke Sentinel asked the Criminal Records Bureau for a breakdown of the number of people with criminal records who applied to become teachers – a job which involves a CRB check. According to the paper, people convicted for drug dealing, fraud, theft, and arson all tried to get to work in schools.

6. The rise and rise of the ‘post charge’ caution

When someone is charged with a crime by the police, it’s fair to assume they’ll go to court, isn’t it? Apparently not, according to the Liverpool Post, which this week revealed the rising use of the ‘post charge caution’ by the Crown Prosecution Service. 45 have been handed out in Greater Manchester – but more than 200 in Merseyside.

7. Another different take on the parking fines hotspots story

There have been a number of new takes on the parking fines hotspots story recently, and here’s another one. – focusing on how much a council makes off its top two streets. That is what the Wandsworth Guardian did – and found two streets which combined make the council £500,000 a year

8. Bans from libraries and leisure centres

The Hull Daily Mail has revealed how 34 people have been banned from leisure centres and libraries in the city for a variety of offences including drug possession and death threats. As usual, unions say the documented cases of abuse are just the tip of the iceberg.

9. Councillor pensions

Interesting stuff from a chap called Trevor Nunn, who runs a website which keeps an eye on Chester and Cheshire West Council. He used FOI to find out how much was paid into councillors’ pensions by the council in the last year – £124,000. So what, you might say, but given that councillors receive allowances rather than salaries, and aren’t actually employed by councils, isn’t it a little odd that they get pensions?

10. 140 languages spoke in primary schools

The Bradford Telegraph and Argus used FOI to get detailed information on the languages spoken in primary schools. Across Bradford, 140 languages are spoken, with some schools having up to 98% of children with english as a second language. This article, to me, is proof you can deal with these issues without being accused of stirring up hatred.

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