10 good examples of FOI in action from the local, regional and national media:
Tony Blair – and politicians in general – may not be made keen on the Freedom of Information Act, but it doesn’t stop them using it to dig out figures which suit their political agenda. In this case, it’s also information which should give cause for concern. Labour used FOI to find out how long people were waiting in ambulances when getting to hospitals – the longest example in Yorkshire being nearly four hours, a fact reported by the Examiner.
A budgie, Bing Crosby records and £23,078 in cash are among the items, as well as a Porsche, a kite, five flatscreen televisions, and a bag of 14 Kit Kat bars – all among the list of things handed in to police as lost property items in Greater Manchester.
Criminals released from jail early or handed a suspended or community sentence went on to commit more than 33,000 offences in just two years. Figures obtained by the Birmingham Mail revealed that almost a third of all convicted felons in the West Midlands went on to re-offend within 12 months of being let out on licence or handed a non-custodial sentence. Some of the offenders went on to commit serious violence, sexual assaults, robberies and even child sex attacks.
Councils have powers to make landowners sort of dumped rubbish on their land – they’re called Section 46 notices. The Milton Keynes Citizen reports on the number issued by the local council, with the devil being in the detail and relying on local knowledge to make the story more interesting.
This is an interesting one – it’s not the first time I’ve seen it, but it’s riddled with dilemmas. Using FOI, it’s possible to ask public sector pension funds – normally held by a county or large council – about the investments they make. In the North East and Cumbria, more than £100million is tied up with tobacco companies. As these authorities are due to take over public health responsibilities from next month, is it right they should continue to do so? Or should their priority be with the pensioners?
How often, when doing calls, have you heard about bin fires? There’s certainly a lot of them – more than 1,000 over four years in Cheshire according to this FOI request … that’s a lot of time wasted by arsonists.
An issue which has the ability to anger anyone who has to pay to park at work – the parking arrangements for council staff. The Carlisle News and Star has found out 500 workers get free car parking.
We’ve seen a wave of new elected roles since the government took office – elected mayors and police and crime commissioners. Salford, one of the few areas to opt for an elected mayor (as opposed to Liverpool, whose council leader, now elected mayor, didn’t think the public should be allowed to vote on whether the city should have elected mayors, and just went straight to a vote on who should be mayor), is facing severe job cuts. That hasn’t stopped the new mayor bringing in a £66k a year spin doctor, who is also responsible for the press office. In the article linked above, the spin doctor in question tries to confuse the issue by suggesting the MEN has some other sort of agenda at play by highlighting his salary. The comments suggest the MEN is in tune with public opinion.
Interesting tales emerging from Ipswich where the university was asked to reveal the complaints made against students.
A familiar one to some, but always worth doing. Crimes reportedly committed by children in Bolton include assault, burglary, theft, racially or religiously aggravated assault and public order offences and shoplifting.