Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 25/2/22 – #FOIFriday

The many ongoing impacts of the pandemic are likely to be seen in many areas, with knock-on consequences to things like lockdown home schooling or falls in council income from things like parking charges.

Maintenance backlog costs

Sheffield Council could be facing a bill for more than £250m to simply maintain the properties and assets it owns over the next five years, according to Now Then Magazine.

The report shows the council needs millions for work to keep buildings open and safe, including more than £8m for urgent and overdue maintenance work on Sheffield Central Library, but was spending only a fraction of the amount needed.

Home education on the rise

More children are being educated at home.

The report from The National suggest this is a trend that has been accelerated by the pandemic – possibly as some parents found the lockdown switch to home learning suited them, or others prefer to keep children at home due to risks from Covid outbreaks in schools.

Nicked phones

Lost or stolen electronic devices can cause security and privacy problems for all kinds of organisations – and they’re likely to be an issue for all organisations with unlucky or forgetful staff.

HMRC has reported 1,491 electronic devices lost or stolen over the past five years, according to City AM. Being locked down doesn’t seem to have helped keep devices safe either – apparently because items went missing when being delivered or collected by couriers as they were being replaced.

The missing information in this story is what were the consequences, if any, of the losses? Were privacy breaches need to be reported, did access need to be blocked to systems etc?

Phone evidence stuck in the nick

Evidence contained on phones and other digital devices can be a key part of building a case that ensures someone can be brought to justice for a crime.

However, police forces across the UK have a total of 21,022 devices, which includes mobile phones, tablets and computers, waiting for examination, according to Channel 4 News.

Backlogs leave victims in limbo while police have their devices (and a potential follow-up question here is how long have police had these 20,000 devices), and could mean crucial information off devices doesn’t reach courts in time.

Self harm in prison

Incidents of self harm were rising in prisons, as were the numbers imprisoned, even before the pandemic. And lockdowns particularly restricted those in jails.

In Scottish prisons, 3,148 reports of self-harm have been made since 2017, according to The Herald, with the figure rising from 493 in 2017 to 635 last year, although the number declined slightly following a major spike to 704 in 2018.

‘Boris Bikes’ go global

If your local council is involved in a local bike hire scheme (or an actually legal eScooter trial), this may be something it has figures on.

One of the problems these schemes face is bikes being stolen or lost and needing tracking down. For the scheme in London, among the hundreds of bikes that go permanently missing from the 14,000-plus fleet every year, a handful have been tracked down to distinctly non-London locations, including Australia, the Gambia and Turkey.

Other foreign locations in which the bikes have been officially spotted are Jamaica, Romania and the Republic of Ireland, according to the Guardian.

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