MPs can save themselves by saving PMQs … quickly.


We live in a democracy on which many others are based. We live in a democracy which many believe we should impose on other countries.

Yet I imagine it would be hard to find anyone who sat through Prime Minister’s Questions who would have left feeling proud about our democracy.

PMQs is billed as the political focal point of the week. It’s where two political leaders go toe-to-toe … but for what purpose?

Such is the gladiatorial nature of PMQs that it has long stopped serving a useful purpose to anyone other than those working in the mini-industry it has created.

The sight of 650 people who cast around for our votes every five years shouting, pointing, jumping, booming, shrieking and heckling in one of the most historic and beautiful buildings we own is enough to put anyone off politics.


How one council newspaper knocked away the last defence for these propaganda publications

Despite the best efforts of councils in various parts of the country, justifications for council-run newspapers which stand up to any scrutiny have been few and far between.

The origins of council newspapers can be tracked back to the period of time when council communications began to be less about keeping the public informed, and more about news management.

Individual communications officers shouldn’t be blamed for this, it was part of a wider culture in which, for example, it was decided the best way for councils and police to score highly in the ‘How safe do your residents feel’ performance indicator was to reduce the number of crimes which were actively reported to the press.

After five years of constant – and thoroughly right – attack and scrutiny by communities secretary Eric Pickles, very few council newspapers are published more than once a quarter. Pretty much the only justification to hold water from councils, in my opinion, is their need to communicate with an entire borough, rather than just readers of any one publication.


FOI Friday: Roadworks hell, hidden art, naughty nurses and bedblocking patients


Plagues of roadworks < Get Surrey

Dismay has been expressed over a ‘plague’ of roadworks on a stretch between Bramley and Guildford in the past three years.

Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that more than 860 individual projects were carried out on the A281 from 2012 to 2014 – an average of 1.3 per day.

The majority of work was carried out in Bramley, with 477 roadworks in the village, with the remainder, 388, on the road through Shalford.

Broken down by year, there was disruption on the Shalford stretch for 160 days in 2012, a drop to 68 days in 2013 and rising to 160 last year.

Hidden Art < South Wales Argus

JUST two per cent of the almost 5,000 pieces in the fine art collection at Newport Museum and Art Gallery is on display, an Argus Freedom of Information Act request reveals.

The museum and art gallery building, which is at risk of closure in Newport City Council’s 2015/16 budget proposals, has 98 works of fine art on display compared to around 4,800 pieces in storage.


FOI Friday: Post office closures, 653 ambulance visits to one house, the cost per fan of policing football and more…


Ambulance called to one house over 600 times in one year < Birmingham Mail

An MP is demanding tougher action against bogus 999 callers after shock figures revealed ambulance crews were sent to one Birmingham address 653 times in 12 months.

Selly Oak MP Steve McCabe plans to raise the issue in parliament after statistics showed 30 Midland addresses were responsible for almost 5,000 emergency calls last year.

The figures from West Midlands Ambulance Service show under-pressure paramedics were called out an average of 13 times a day to the homes.

In one case an address in the Shard End area of Birmingham was visited 653 times – an average of almost twice a day – in the last 12 months.

Post office closures by stealth? < ChroniceleLive

The Post Office today stands accused of cutting down its network “by stealth” as an investigation reveals 17 North East branches have been “temporarily closed” for more than a year.

A Freedom Of Information probe has uncovered huge gaps in the region’s Post Office service, with seven out of a total of 20 branches marked as ‘closed temporarily’, having actually been shut for more than five years.

The Communication Workers’ Union has branded the situation “ridiculous” and claimed Post Office chiefs are letting down communities in the region who rely on their local branch.


If you think you’re reading or writing that bin fire nib every day, then it’s probably because you are

The only things certain in life, said Benjamin Franklin, are death and taxes.

For reporters on local and regional newspapers, you can probably add a third: bin fires.

For me, a duty reporter shift wasn’t a duty reporter shift at the Lancashire Evening Telegraph without one of the local fire stations sharing details of a bin fire, sometimes referred to as a refuse fire if they are being technical.

And now there appears to be proof that if you suspected you wrote a bin fire nib every day, you probably were.

This, via the Freedom of Information Act, from the South Wales Evening Post: