FOI Friday: Crime-ridden leisure centres, true truancy figures, NHS lay offs and Olympic torch costs

Apologies for the delay in the latest FOI Friday – a bad dose of chickenpox in our house has made keeping on top of it harder than usual! As ever, this is list is compiled using Google News and from suggestions sent to me on Twitter @davidhiggerson

Crimes committed at leisure centres < < < Welwyn Hatfield Times

A variation on an old favourite – list the crimes committed at X – yields some interesting results when X becomes a leisure centre:

OUTRAGING public decency and grievous bodily harm are just two of the crimes reported at Welwyn Hatfield leisure centres in the past two years.

Venues hired by councils < < < Leicester Mercury

An interesting example of council spending being held to account through FOI. Trade unions have been critical of the decision to hire conference facilities for meetings. The council, I guess, argues it has nowhere big enough to house 400 people. But do you really need 400 people in a room to talk transport?

Parking tickets overturned < < < Swindon Advertiser

What are the chances of getting a parking ticket overturned in Wiltshire? One in six, according to information obtained by the Swindon Advertiser. I liked the council’s defence of the high appeal success rate:

Swindon Council said the fact that so many tickets were successfully challenged was a good thing, because it shows the council is prepared to listen to complaints.

A spokesman said: “We cancel a lot of penalty charge notices because we’re prepared to listen to people if they have a reasonable excuse.

“Drivers should be reassured by this – they would have more reason to be worried if we didn’t cancel many.”

Of course, with prevention always better than cure, getting the tickets issued correctly in the first place would be better.

Reducing hospital bed numbers and overcrowding < < < BBC

Interesting stats obtained by the BBC from Welsh health boards which reveal 1000 hospital beds have disappeared in the country in the last three years. It’s not as if there isn’t demand – hospitals are regularly overcrowded now, according to the figures.


The cost of hosting the Olympic Torch Relay < < < Bolton News

With the warm afterglow which has enveloped the Olympics making it tricky to write critical stories of the event, dealing with an FOI on the cost of hosting the Olympic Torch relay in Bolton will have been tricky for the Bolton News. 10,000 people turned out to watch it pass through Bolton. I like the level of detail reported here – and also the reaction in the comments section which includes the question: “Shouldn’t Olympic organisers have paid?”

Spending on beds for the obese < < < Edinburgh Evening News

A different way of looking at the impact of Britain’s ‘obesity crisis’ – asking hospitals how much they have spent on hospital beds capable of holding the super-sized. In Lothian, it’s £50,000.

How bad is bullying < < < Brighton Argus

Here’s a stat to catch the eye of any parent:

A CHILD is forced to look for a new secondary school in Brighton and Hove more than once in every three school days because of bullying.

More than 130 secondary school pupils cited bullying as the reason they wanted to move to a new school in the city in the last two academic years.

There can presumably be no doubt that when a child resorts to asking for a move to a new school, then the bullying is so severe it is impacting on their lives.

Getting more than just data on dirty restaurants < < < Cornish Guardian

There are a number of restaurants where you can find out the scores environmental health inspectors gave restaurants and other eateries – but the devil is often in the detail. That’s why I’ve included the Cornish Guardian’s FOI asking for the full inspection reports of venues which failed to come up to scratch.

Teenagers swabbed for their DNA by police < < < York Press

The level of detail is what caught my eye here. Often when police release data through FOI, they break it down into wide age groups, eg ‘under 13s.’ Not so in this case, where the York Press reports on the number of children having their DNA taken each year:

Of the 1532 swab samples taken from children in North Yorkshire in 2010 and 2011, 21 were taken from ten-year-olds, 36 from 11-year-olds, 84 from 12-year-olds, 162 from 13-year-olds, 254 from 14-year-olds, 290 from 15-year-olds, 299 from 16-year-olds and 406 from 17-year-olds.

Children missing education < < < Swindon Advertiser

When the government releases its truancy data, it’s often meaningless. You sometimes get a percentage of school days lost. But that’s not a true truancy scale, is it? The Swindon Advertiser has found another approach:

HUNDREDS of pupils missed classes at Swindon schools and academies over the last academic year – including more than 90 who failed to show up for three weeks.

A total of 310 pupils were registered by the council as Children Missing Education (CME).

Drugs data < < < Crewe Chronicle

This is another of those FOI requests which impresses because of the depth of data more than anything else, suggesting good questions are being asked. The Chronicle reports on the youngest person to be stopped for drugs possession, along with the total number of stops – and the reasons for those stops.

NHS lay off costs < < < Western Daily Press

Millions being spent on NHS redundancies? Not a story the government is keen for you to here when it talks about ‘protecting the NHS budget.’








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