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