You are currently viewing Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 11/8/2023 – #FOIFriday

Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 11/8/2023 – #FOIFriday

Obviously, the main Freedom of Information story this week is the horrendous data breach by PSNI, which saw personal details of thousands of officers and staff published online as an FOI response.

This keeps happening (and it absolutely shouldn’t), and this has to be pretty much the worst case scenario for this kind of data breach.

So what else has been happening with FOI this week…

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Policing bias

The only events for which Metropolitan police chiefs authorised the potential use of baton rounds in the past six years were black-led gatherings, documents show. The weapons, intended to be a less lethal alternative to regular firearms, have been cleared for use at Notting Hill carnival since 2017 and the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.

The authorisation emerged in documents released after a freedom of information request by Liberty Investigates, the results of which were shared with the Guardian. Amnesty International said the decision to authorise their use was an example of institutional racism in the Met, which the force denies. A report by Louise Casey in March found the Met to be institutionally racist.

Mural repaint cost

The Home Office spent more than £1,500 “redecorating” a migrant detention centre where children’s cartoons were painted over, the Independent reports. A Freedom of Information request revealed the cost of works at Manston in Kent, where all asylum seekers arriving on small boats are detained for initial processing.

The facility, which became unlawfully overcrowded and saw a diphtheria outbreak last autumn, previously had murals of Disney characters including Anna from Frozen on the walls of its children and families unit. But it emerged last month that the murals had been painted over by the Home Office, along with similar cartoons of Mickey Mouse and other characters at the separate Kent Intake Unit.

Chemical leaks

An investigation into NHS trusts has revealed that Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust had the highest number of chemical leaks. The Liberal Democrats found evidence of chemical leaks in patient areas at a number of hospitals in England, as well as broken fire alarms in some facilities.

Data from one Freedom of Information (FOI) request made by the Liberal Democrats revealed there had been 115 chemical leak incidents at NHS hospitals between June 1 2022 and May 31 2023, the Manchester Evening News reports. Manchester University Trust recorded the highest number of chemical leaks with 22. A statement from the trust said it takes ‘chemical safety extremely seriously’.

Hospital fires

The Liberal Democrats sent freedom of information requests to every hospital trust in the country. The 84 that responded – around 41 per cent – reported 290 fires between mid-2022 and summer of this year.

This included four at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the Doncaster Free Press reports. Across England, these trusts also reported 337 broken fire alarms and more than 4,000 false fire alarms.

Attacks on firefighters

Bricks and bottles being thrown at Humberside firefighters and engines were among the rising number of attacks on staff this year, Hull Live reports.

There have been 11 attacks and incidents of abuse so far this year, four of them in Hull and the East Riding, figures from a freedom of information request show. Crews have faced verbal abuse while trying to save lives, a spokesperson for the service said.

Staffing issues

Data obtained from Freedom of Information (FoI) requests revealed that the number of recorded incidents on inpatient mental health wards linked to understaffing has increased dramatically in recent years. A total of 39 trusts, 75% of England’s roughly 50 NHS mental health providers, supplied Nursing Times with the number of staffing-related reports made on their Datix systems.

Datix reports are made by clinicians to log ‘adverse events’. This ambiguous term means that any given Datix report can range from referring to an event that had the potential to cause harm but was prevented, known as a ‘near-miss’, to referring to a major injury or death, known in the NHS as a ‘serious incident’.

The FoI data showed that 11,073 incidents referencing staff shortages were made in 2022 at just the 39 trusts who responded to Nursing Times. This number, which is up from 6,957 in 2019, has remained high since the Covid-19 pandemic, peaking at 11,453 in 2021.

Long waits for social housing

Freedom of information data showed that in 21 of the 29 Scottish councils which responded, average waiting times for social housing were longer than 12 months. Meanwhile, in 24 local authorities, the longest waits recorded were more than than 20 years.

Renfrewshire Council recorded a wait of longer than 68 years, though the application in question is on hold. The Herald reports.


This is potentially a good idea, but not that well executed. Part of the issue is that only about half of councils have responded, so it’s hard to say where is actually the worst. Also number of reports probably should be per head of population for a better comparison.

The worst part of the country for pest control problems was Swansea, which saw 16,767 infestations last year, the Mirror reports.

Meanwhile, Southwark, London, saw a staggering 90 per cent increase in infestations from 2021 – seeing 16,664 infestations in 2022. This marked the worst hit part of the capital according to data from Direct Line, who did a freedom of information request to all local authorities across Britain earlier this year, with 181 responding.

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