FOI Friday: Brexit and the NHS, NHS secrecy, police secrecy and street-level data success


Brexit continues to be a happy hunting ground for information-hungry journalists … even if the story once again appears to be about the reluctance of those in power to actually talk about their planning for the biggest British government change in a generation.

This week, GazetteLive in Teesside reported on the reliance local NHS services have on EU workers, who may well be feeling a little less loved by the UK as a result of the Brexit vote.

More than 10% of NHS workers in Teesside are from the EU – people who presumably were surprised to find themselves living in an area which voted strongly for Brexit.

Teesside voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU last year. Middlesbrough’s Brambles Farm and Thorntree ward had the highest ‘leave’ percentage in the UK, despite the North-east receiving more EU funding per head than anywhere else in Britain.

It isn’t known how bosses at the South Tees trust – which runs James Cook University Hospital – feel about the impact Brexit could have on staff.

It also declined a Freedom of Information request for internal communications over Brexit’s potential impact on staffing.

The Gazette has now contacted the trust for additional comment.

Why the secrecy? Hopefully, for the sake of NHS users in Teesside, they’ve done more research into the problems posed by Brexit than David Davis, the Brexit secretary, has…

Six months on from Grenfell

Inside Housing won ‘news provider of the year’ at the British Journalism Awards this week, with praise in particular for its coverage of issues which proved to be relevant to the Grenfell tower disaster long before the tragedy took place.

This week, it marked six months since the fire with an FOI story revealing many tower blocks haven’t been checked since events in West London stunned the UK:

More than a thousand tower blocks have been left without fresh FRAs, despite the urgency local councils expressed in the aftermath of the devastating blaze in June.

Inside Housing received information from 60 councils relating to 2,450 tower blocks – defined as six storeys or more – and found that 1,288 (53%) had not had fresh FRAs since the fire that claimed 71 lives in North Kensington.

Almost a third, 755, had not had new FRAs in the past year, meaning they are not compliant with the guidance issued by the Local Government Association in its guide for fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats.

Criminals on the run … but who can’t be named

In the Black Country, there are suspected criminals subject to police warrants dating back to 2011 … but the police feel it would be unfair to tell us what their names are.

That was the surprise finding of an FOI request by the Wolverhampton Express and Star this week.

It reported:

The force confirmed the oldest arrest warrants date back to 2011 after it received a freedom of information request from the Express & Star asking about the 20 who had been on the run the longest.

A total of six suspects are still being sought by police for prostitution offences, indecent assault, minor road traffic offences and theft dating back to 2011. Officers are also still looking for five suspects wanted for rape, bail offences, common assault, breaching a court order and theft from 2013.

Susan Brown, of the force’s freedom of information unit, said it would be ‘unfair’ to release the information if it did not lead to the suspect’s arrest. In her response to the request, she went on to claim it was also not in the public interest to release all the information. She said the force actively publishes information online relating to its campaigns, adding: “This provides the public with direct access to current up-to-date information which will help to locate those offenders who are wanted or missing.”

Also this week:

The hospital reluctant to reveal why it’s under pressure < Bath Chronicle (some good advice on key phrases follow):

The Royal United Hospital was on ‘red alert’ for most of September.

The hospital declared the warning operating status on 22 out of 30 days that month.

It was reluctant to share the information with the Chronicle but revealed it in response to a Freedom of Information request.

The long spell under “major pressure” is a measure of the challenges facing the hospital and the rest of the local health and social care system even before this year’s winter pressures hit.

We have asked the hospital what, if any, particular pressures resulted in the decision to escalate its Operational Pressures Escalation Level (OPEL) on most days in September.

What used to be called a ‘red alert’ is roughly equivalent to what is now termed OPEL 3 by NHS hospitals in England.

The council attraction running at a loss < Southport Visiter

Sefton Council made a loss of almost £250,000 running the Crosby Lakeside Centre last year.

The facility, situated by Marine Lake, hosts a variety of water sports and also features an indoor gym.

Sefton currently has ambitious plans to expand the attraction, partly by building an adventure playground featuring a high ropes course. It also hopes to develop the centre into into a four-star hotel in a bid to raise an extra £186,000 a year from the tourist economy.

These plans have come under opposition from some residents, who fear views of the area will be spoilt, and business owners who claim the development would negatively impact rival hotels.

Despite being one of the key attractions in the area and situated next to Crosby beach, the centre resulted in a deficit of £246,513 for the council last year.

The figures were released in a Freedom of Information request and cover the financial year of 2016-17.

Finding out the fines for roadworks < Cornwall Live

year roadwork site on the A30, data has shown.

Between June 2015 and July 2017, Cornwall Council‘s improvement works to the A30 near Bodmin have created many frustrations.

The site, located between Higher Carblake and Temple, limited drivers’ speed to 40mph for two years but many decided to drive unlawfully and ignore the restrictions.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act have provided the exact number of road users who were caught speeding through the site, during the whole scheme, although visible average speed cameras had been put on site.

Monitoring the cost of major investigations < EDP

The total cost of the landfill search for missing RAF serviceman Corrie McKeague is more than £1.5million, a freedom of information (FoI) request has revealed.

The £1,531,181 cost of both searches does not include salary costs or costs incurred to backfill officers who have been drafted in.

The money has come out of the collaborative budget for Norfolk and Suffolk’s Joint Major Investigation Team (MIT).

The budget is split 56.8/43.2 between the two forces, meaning Norfolk has contributed £869,710 to the search costs and Suffolk £661,470.

The FoI was submitted by David Lamming, who said he was concerned that the cost of the search was disproportionate with regard to other demands on the stretched Suffolk policing budget.

Coercive control doesn’t lead to convictions that often < Kent Online

Only around one in six people arrested for a domestic violence related offence in Kent are actually charged, a Freedom of Information request has found.

Figures have revealed last year there were 328 arrests relating to Coercive Control and just 56 charges – although police say the force has one of the highest conviction rates in the country.

The numbers up to June 30 this year show there were 176 arrests and 26 people charged.

Fly-tipping by street < Bristol Post and TM data unit

he worst places in the city for fly-tipping have been revealed by the Bristol Post.

Figures have been obtained which show one area saw illegal waste dumped more than 150 times in two years.

The statistics, obtained by the Bristol Post through Freedom of Information requests, revealed Lawrence Hill saw 164 fly-tipping incidents between April 2015 and March 2017.

This was the highest total for any street in Bristol over that two-year period. Some of this rubbish took up a huge amount of space – more than five metres in some cases.



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