Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 11/11/22 – #FOIFriday

There are some public bodies you can send an FOI to but you might not realise you can. Possibly because you wouldn’t think they were public bodies.

In recent years, the Government (or rather governments, this is a devolved issue) have ended up taking over contracted-out transport services. And now those services are subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

That means you can send questions about timekeeping, stations, and staffing to some previously privately run train companies, like:

Cancelled trains

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal services to or from Knottingley station in West Yorkshire have been cancelled on 285 occasions over a two-and-a-half year period.

Northern was forced to disclose the information to a passenger who regularly uses the station to travel to work in Leeds, according to the Wakefield Express.

Road closures

Incidents on the M4 have closed the road through Newport more than 300 times so far in 2022, WalesOnline reports. The M4 stretching from J23A Magor services and J28 Tredegar Park has been closed a total of 393 times between January and October this year, according to figures revealed following a Freedom of Information request.

The numbers include 128 incidents involving broken-down vehicles, 58 road traffic collisions and 124 other incidents such as debris on the road. Just 83 of the 393 closures have been scheduled due to roadworks being carried out.

Ambulance delays

Figures obtained by Freedom of Information requests submitted to the London Ambulance Service reveal ambulance crews have failed to attend 193,312 emergency callouts graded as Category 1 since 2018, SW Londoner reports.

Requiring an immediate response to a life-threatening condition, Category 1 calls relate to incidents such as an individual suffering a cardiac or respiratory arrest, and warrant intervention in under seven minutes.

Summer fires

This summer’s record-breaking hot weather saw record-breaking call-outs for fire crews in London, but other parts of the country were likely also facing similar challenges.

Firefighters in Devon and Somerset were called to 970 outdoor incidents during England’s joint-warmest summer on record, the Somerset County Gazette reports.

A “significant” rise in wildfires attended by firefighters in the two counties has been attributed in part to this summer’s high temperatures. The service attended 395 similar incidents in the same timeframe last year and 516 the year before.

Drivers on the phone

The number of drivers in the West Midlands punished for using their mobile phone at the wheel has surged since tough new rules meaning motorists risk getting in trouble for just touching their phones were brought in in April.

In January, just nine drivers were caught using a phone, followed by 28 in both February and March, BirminghamLive reports. But the total jumped to 72 in April and again to 98 in May. Numbers have remained higher than 2021 levels in the months since.

Bomb alert

The Met Police bomb squad descended on a Haringey housing estate earlier this year over what turned out to be a fake explosive device. The incident, in Seven Sisters, was kept quiet at the time and only uncovered by a Newsquest Freedom of Information request.

Police were called in by Haringey Council housing officers after they went to inspect a newly empty home. When they entered, they were confronted by what looked like a military explosive device, which had been left on the kitchen counter.

They immediately called the police, who agreed the item looked suspicious and called in specialist officers. The Met Police confirmed that its bomb squad “attended and examined the item”. “It was found to be a dummy mortar shell which was removed and secured,” a spokesperson said.

Roadwork road rage

The East Riding has been named one of the top areas in the country for the number of roadworks on its roads in 2021-2022, Hull Daily Mail reports.

Bill Plant Driving School submitted Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to local authorities across the UK to reveal which locations carried out the most roadworks during the 2021-22 financial year. East Riding of Yorkshire council had the fifth most roadworks as it had a total of 32,420.

It has been reported that £12b has been spent on roadworks across the UK since 2021. Essex County Council is crowned the UK’s top roadwork capital with 77,423 roadworks during the 2021-22 financial year.

Warm hubs

To be effective warm hubs probably need more promotion this winter than being revealed using FOI.

Liverpool City Council are yet to release a public list of places to go, but in response to a Freedom of Information request in October said they offer warm spaces with free access to books, wi-fi and public computers at local libraries including Central Library and 14 Community Libraries across the city, according to Liverpool World.

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