You are currently viewing Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 19/5/2023 – #FOIFriday

Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 19/5/2023 – #FOIFriday

You can make Freedom of Information requests about pretty much anything. That’s the whole point. It allows anyone to ask about anything from any public body (doesn’t mean they hold that information).

With the UK hosting Eurovision last Saturday, there was an opportunity for some FOI requests.

While Liverpool were chosen to host, an FOI showed Belfast missed out due to a too-small arena (that might not have actually been free), political instability, and local infrastructure such as transport.

Meanwhile, the NME (first time FOI Friday appearance) reports on the potential long-term impact on Liverpool of hosting. It based some of this on a WhatDoTheyKnow FOI asking the city council about its projections for tourist numbers and revenue. The council said: “Our low end projection is for an additional 50,000 visitors as a result of the event, generating an additional economic impact in the region of £30m.”

What else are people asking about this week:

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ADHD assessments

Thousands of adults and children are being removed from NHS waiting lists for ADHD assessments each year without ever meeting a specialist, i can reveal. According to GPs, patients are often being rejected without being given a reason and are then turning to private clinics.

Charity ADHD UK obtained Freedom of Information data from 18 NHS hospitals and mental health trusts on the number of adult ADHD referrals they were rejecting. In 2021-22, the most recent year for which there is full data, these trusts collectively rejected 3,538 referrals.

During this year, the trusts collectively carried out 37,111 ADHD assessments on adults, meaning referrals were being rejected at a rate of 8.7 per cent.

Right to buy

A Freedom of Information request has revealed the areas in Stoke-on-Trent where residents have benefitted most from the Right to Buy scheme in the past 20 years, according to Stoke-on-Trent Live.

The figures – which cover the years from 2001 to 2021 – show that there have been 3,634 sales across the city under the Right to Buy scheme. The mostly two- and three-bedroom properties had a total market value of £216,389,070, but were sold for £124,937,968, with residents receiving a total discount of £91,251,102 – an average of 42 per cent.

The ST3 postcode area (which includes Longton, Weston Coyney and Meir) saw the largest number of sales, with 1,119 homes bought under the scheme between 2001 and 2021. Residents received an average 43 per cent discount, buying their homes for an average of £33,950.

Netflix and drive?

A number of drivers were caught looking at mounted phones or tablets as they played films or TV shows over the last couple of years on our roads, shocking data obtained by BirminghamLive revealed. Worryingly, these have included drivers hurtling along the motorway at 70mph.

A freedom of information request, showed 14 of these dangerous drivers had been caught since 2021. Two have already been collared this year, while seven were caught in 2022 and five in 2021. A number of these were caught on the M6, including both of those caught this year.

No complaints

A leading stag and hen do company launched a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to some of the biggest authorities in the UK, which shows that there has been no licencing complaints in the past seven years, despite lap dancing establishments being run up and down the country, Manchester Evening News reports.

This includes establishments in top cities like Newcastle and Liverpool. The probe found there was no evidence of strip clubs promoting violence against women, with the majority of complaints to over 50 major councils, regarding noise or overly-saucy flyers.

Matt Mavir, Managing Director of Britain’s leading stag and hen firm, Last Night of Freedom, said: “In that time, councils will have dealt with scores of complaints involving everything from pubs to takeaways. The reality is lap dancing venues are a safer place to work than many bars or pubs. There are cameras and very strict rules around what you can and can’t do, and those who choose to work there can potentially earn a very good wage.”

Council farewell party

With several councils each year merging into new authorities, there may be an FOI request in finding out how much the defunct councils spent on final day.

Harrogate Borough Council spent £14,910 on a final day leaving party for staff, a freedom of information request has revealed. The bill, footed by council taxpayers, included £3,031 on drink and £4,750 on food. The other £7,000 is unaccounted for.

The Stray Ferret has submitted a freedom of information request seeking a fuller breakdown of the costs.

Seven district councils and North Yorkshire County Council were abolished on March 31 to make way for the new North Yorkshire Council.

Harrogate Borough Council’s final day staff party cost the most. Scarborough was the next highest, spending £9,004, followed by Hambleton at £3,783. Ryedale awarded staff a £148 bonus and spent £3,001 on a party. North Yorkshire County Council did not spend anything.

Meeting refreshments

Apparently, some councils are still providing tea and biscuits at meetings. But how much is costing to keep councillor’s sugar and caffeine levels topped up?

Following a Freedom of Information request, the Oxford Mail can reveal how much cash was spent by councils from May 1, 2022, to May 1, 2023. The request asked for the cost of tea, biscuits, and any other food or refreshments provided at the meetings of all six councils – excluding parish and town – in Oxfordshire.

The county council provides lunch at meetings of the full council, and in six full council meetings over the last year, the total cost for this was £5335.21. Additionally, £2169.86 was spent at seven meetings of the Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee on lunch or any food.

However, the county council could not give a figure for the cost of tea and coffee, which have been supplied at around 100 meetings over the last year.

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