FOI FRIDAY: Booze seized, student homes, £690 a shift at the council and meals worth £150k thrown away

10 good examples of FOI in action from the local, regional and national media:

1. The rise in the number of student homes (Falmouth Packet)

A startling statistic emerging from a Freedom of Information request which is then built upon to find out the impact behind said statistic – the recipe for a strong FOI-based story as demonstrated by the Falmouth Packet. One in 10 homes in Falmouth are now ‘Class N’ properties according to the council – meaning 10% of homes don’t pay council tax because they are occupied by students, a 653% increase on 2000.

2. Number of children disappearing from care doubles (Northampton Chronicle and Echo)

Demonstrating the value of asking for historic data as well as current data is this story from the Northampton Chronicle and Echo, which revealed the number of children in care going missing has doubled in two years. The story gets added depth from revealing the ages of the youngest to go missing – ages eight and nine.

3. £690 a shift at Cambridgeshire County Council  (Cambridge News)

Nice work if you can get it, perhaps, but the Cambridge News revealed, under FOI, that up to £690 a shift was being paid for casual workers at Cambridgeshire County Council.

4. £150k of meals thrown away every year (Manchester Evening News)

I think I’ve seen figures like this in the past, but this FOI from the MEN demonstrates that some FOIs can be gifts which keep on giving – especially at times of budget cuts.

5. What goes missing from libraries? (Teesside Evening Gazette)

A different twist on the FOI asking for information on what goes on at local libraries – asking for the list of things which weren’t ever returned. Harry Potter DVDs among them.

6. Premium rate numbers to ring the doctors (Postcode Gazette)

Asking the PCT (or NHS Sheffield in this case) for the number of surgeries still using 0844 or 0845 numbers as the primary point of access for patients. While they are ‘local’ numbers if ringing from a landline, people can be charged up to 40p a minute from mobiles, according to the Postcode Gazette.

7. Drink seized off the streets and other booze problems (Wrexham.com)

Some interesting figures from Wrexham.com, a hyperlocal site which responded to an apparent increase in drinking problems around Wrexham by asking police for the number of times booze had been seized off people in the streets and for a number of other actions police can take to tackle the issue. There’s a fascinating line in there saying that North Wales Police can’t track data back too far without going through every officer’s notebook.

8. Sex attacks carried out by relatives (Gloucestershire Echo)

Horrific figures, obtained by the NSPCC, reveal the scale of sex attacks which were carried out by relatives of the victim.

9. Technological errors which cost lives (Liverpool Echo)

This story is quite remarkable – not least for the fact the North West Ambulance Service seemed incapable of getting basic information out to the public. But in a nutshell, it appears they can track the number of times ambulances are delayed due to technical reasons – such as having faulty sat navs. Worryingly, it appears to took the death of a child and an investigation by the ECHO to prompt the ambulance service to write to councils asking for updates on road closures and changes.

10. £5k payout for broken gloves (Manchester Evening News)

And finally – asking the fire service for their compensation payouts to staff generated an interesting story for the Manchester Evening News.

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FOI Friday is compiled using Google News and tip-offs sent to this blog or to me via Twitter @davidhiggerson

5 comments

  1. David, I think your synopsis for No 3 is slightly misleading, the council are paying £690 FOR the casual staff member, not TO them. A minor but crucial difference.

      1. No problem, its only a minor point but does suggest something in the article that isnt there.

  2. Re: £690 per day temps. Wirral have a “temp” doing 3 days a week on £1,200 per day. Step forward Michael Frater. SOLACE member. Troubleshooter. Contract extended from 3 months to 6 – now in place ’til October ’12. 3 directors suspended during the Frater term. Big credentials, but not being seen to “deliver”….. yet. In fact, signs are not good, despite the PR. Locals have a feeling it’s all going wrong somehow. Anna Klonowski, independent investigator (with undeclared prior interest (from 2006) as a trainer in corporate governance), subsequently taken on as a consultant ~ flew the nest the other week, without explanation. LGA “Improvement board” being minuted, but omitting any detailed reference to probing questions from the public. Threat of disabled abuse rearing its ugly head as it’s all been protected and enabled inside a legal document with a “gagging clause”. Local MP currently ignoring my missives. Local auditor taking an age to carry out his own investigation. Council stalling. Central Government washing its hands. More here:

    http://tinyurl.com/cqywbhu

    These issues have been bubbling away for many years now. Cover up after cover up just won’t cut it, but there’s no desire to get on message, to engage properly with local people and act in the public interest. After all, when you’re on £1,200 per day, where’s the incentive?

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