Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 7/4/2023 – #FOIFriday

What’s the worst FOI response you’ve ever got?

Was it better or worse than the one provided by Glasgow City Council that has left it accused of providing “one of the worst Freedom of Information (FOI) responses in history”. That’s after telling an MSP it would cost £250,000 to provide simple social care information – despite other councils providing the same info freely.

Meanwhile, the Prime Ministerial lectern saga continues – Rishi Sunak has a new podium set-up, but how much did it cost? Apparently, it was quite a bit cheaper – according to a Freedom of Information request response from Downing Street, the expenditure on the snazzy new set up was a mere £1,575 – the cost of the backdrop to illustrate Sunak’s much-trumpeted ‘five pledges’.

No unit to attend

More than 45,000 burglaries reported last year went unattended by the police in England, according to research, with critics blaming “broken Conservative Party promises” on law and order. The Liberal Democrats obtained data through Freedom of Information requests which it says show an equivalent of more than 120 break-ins a day occurred without an officer visiting the scene.

Football arrests

West Midlands Police have made numerous arrests for offences including GBH, violent disorder, affray, and possession of drugs at football matches in the West Midlands since the start of the 2022/23 season. Violent incidents at matches, including those involving Aston Villa and Birmingham City, have led to dozens of arrests.

The data, which only includes incidents close to stadiums, was released following a freedom of information request by BirminghamLive.

School pests

Ants and wasps have been found to be the biggest problem when it comes to pests in Moray schools. Between 2018 and 2021, there were 49 cases of ants and 47 of wasps in local authority schools, with 40 instances of mice and 15 cases where rats had found a way in.

The largest number of incidents was recorded at Buckie High, with 22 instances of pests and vermin over the five-year period, Grampian Online reports. The figures were obtained via a Freedom of Information request.

Council Tax Debt in Haringey

More than 7,000 households in Haringey are in council tax debt, according to official data revealed through an FOI request by Haringey Community Press. As of February 2023, 7,126 households are in arrears for council tax, with the sum of outstanding payments (also including yet-to-be-paid bills) totalling £53.3million.

Doomed bids

Local authorities in Yorkshire have spent £3.1 million on consultants to help them bid for money from the Levelling Up Fund, according to an investigation by The Northern Agenda politics newsletter. A total of £23.4 million has been paid by councils across the country to consultants, with £3.1 million paid out by Yorkshire councils, despite many areas being among the poorest in the country.

The majority of the money spent on consultants did not result in successful bids, with £2.69 million being spent on “doomed” round two bids.

Cancelled operations

A Lib Dem analysis of Freedom of Information data has revealed that 14,628 children’s operations were cancelled in 2022, up 23% from the previous year, and the highest level in the past five years, the Mirror reports. Almost 4,000 of these cancellations were due to a lack of beds, while 2,894 were blamed on a lack of staff. University Hospitals Birmingham had to cancel more than 3,160 surgeries.

The figures highlight the crisis gripping the NHS, with 7.2 million patients stranded on waiting lists and an estimated 133,000 vacancies in the health service.

School claim pay-outs

Local authorities across Wales have paid out hundreds of thousands of pounds in insurance claims from staff and pupils for cases including bullying and assault, falls, and playground accidents, according to details obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. One council paid a pupil £25,000 to settle a bullying and assault claim, while £16,000 was paid to a pupil for a cut finger and £7,000 for an injury caused by a manhole cover in a school playground.


An investigation into speeding in North Yorkshire found that nearly 300 drivers were caught going over 100mph in the 12 months to March, according to a Freedom of Information request by Planet Radio. One vehicle was recorded going 134mph in a 60mph zone. In total, four drivers were caught exceeding 130mph.

Chauffeur driven

Southwark council spent over £77,000 on chauffeurs for the mayor between 2019 and 2022, according to a Freedom of Information request. The council used Hounslow-based S7 Chauffeurs for most of the journeys, including trips between addresses within Southwark, and other London boroughs and Berkshire, the South London Press reports.

The spending on chauffeurs peaked at £35,000 in the 12 months before the Covid-19 pandemic, dropped to £8,352 in the year to March 2021 and rose to just under £34,000 in 2022. In February, the council cut £50,000 from the mayor’s £70,000 yearly transport budget by limiting the use of the chauffeur service to “key civic events.”

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