You are currently viewing Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 12/1/2024 – #FOIFriday

Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 12/1/2024 – #FOIFriday

If your New Year’s resolution isn’t to make more FOI requests (because you already send plenty), maybe it could be to challenge more refusals.

Nottingham City Council must publish a secret report raising “very serious concerns” over its financial management following a ruling by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The council published its own 10-page summary of the review. An Freedom of Information (FOI) request asked for the full report be made public. The council refused citing the council’s need to consider technical reports for officers in a “safe space”.

The ICO has now said the report should be published. In the decision notice, Christopher Williams, Senior Case Officer, said: “It is not the Commissioner’s role to scrutinise the council’s financial practices but it is clear that it would be reasonable for the public to be concerned about the council’s practices.”

This decision also seems like a positive example of the ICO’s prioritisation of complaints – the initial request was made in July 2023, with a decision notice issued just six months later.

Meanwhile, this one is heading off to the ICO – Liverpool City Council has refused to name two elected councillors who were summonsed to court over failure to pay Council Tax.

As the article points out, there’s lots of precedent for releasing the names of councillors whose failure to pay council tax had reached court proceedings.  In 2016, The Bolton News newspaper won a landmark judgement at the Upper Tribunal, which forced Bolton Council to reveal the names of councillors who had received court summons for Council Tax payment failures (the Liverpool Echo has previously cited this case to get the council to release names in the past).

Another one heading for an internal review – TfL won’t say how much attacks on ULEZ cameras have cost. It suggested that reporting this information would “encourage” further offences.

But the Campaign for Freedom of Information (CFOI) said TfL’s argument was “highly questionable”.

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Long waits

The Scottish Conservatives have accused the Government of “betraying” young mental health patients after figures revealed some are waiting up to three years to see a specialist.

The Tories obtained statistics using freedom of information legislation which revealed one patient in NHS Highland had waited 150 weeks for their first Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) appointment by the middle of 2023.

An NHS Tayside patient waited 111 weeks, and a patient in the Ayrshire and Arran health board area waited 91 weeks.

20mph speeders

It’s never too soon to follow up the impact of a policy change. Though remember if you’re asking for how many people are affected by something, public bodies only need to count up until the point you made your FOI request (they may include data up to the point they ran a report to answer your query).

In September, all restricted roads (usually found in residential and built-up areas) in Wales became 20mph. In the first two and a half months, 95 people were caught breaking the speed limit.

Two drivers have been taken to court for breaking Wales’ 20mph default speed limit, according to WalesOnline’s FOI. The other 93 who have been dealt with for breaking the speed limit since it was introduced in September were given either penalty points or completed a speed awareness course.

Missing children

One in eight of the 8,000 children in care across Greater Manchester had a “missing incident” this year, according to government data. The North West saw the highest number of missing incidents – of all UK regions.

The ages of those missing ranged from newborn to 18 years old – most of whom went missing more than once.

To better understand the crisis in care, Mancunian Matters issued Freedom of Information requests to Greater Manchester’s 10 borough councils.

The average child who went missing in Manchester’s worst-performing borough Tameside would repeat this behaviour 10.7 times on average. But in Oldham, the average number of missing incidents per child who had already gone missing was 12.5.

The Freedom of Information requests also revealed what age children in care were most likely to go missing in each borough. Across all of Manchester’s boroughs, most runaways were between the ages of 15 and 17.

3D printed guns

Police Scotland recorded the first cases of 3D-printed guns last year. Authorities logged two incidents halfway through last year, a freedom of information request by 1919 Magazine has revealed.

Details showed the first incident occurred last April in the force’s Argyll and West Dunbartonshire division, with the other happening a month later in Tayside.

Sexual offences on the Tube

There has been a rise in the number of sexual offences recorded on London’s Tube network, according to British Transport Police (BTP) figures. The data recorded 909 sexual offences, excluding rape, between 1 December 2022 and 30 November 2023, compared to 866 in the previous 12 months.

Sarah Olney, the Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park, who obtained the BTP figures through a Freedom of Information request, said that “women deserve to feel safe on public transport”.

Ambulance breakdowns

Ambulances in the East of England may be more likely to break down than those in the West Midlands (it would be useful to be able to do a per vehicle comparison, but the gap is pretty big)

Between August 1 and August 31, 2023, 239 breakdowns were recorded by the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST), which at the time had a fleet of 489 dual-staffed ambulances.

New data, revealed again through a Freedom of Information request carried out by the East Anglian Daily Times, has shown West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) recorded just 34 breakdowns in August 2023, some 205 less than that recorded at EEAST. And in July 2023, EEAST recorded 113 breakdowns, while WMAS recorded just 23.

Dangerous dogs

The number of dangerous dogs being seized by police in Wales has jumped by almost 40 per cent in the last four years, with seizures of XL Bully and American Bulldog types doubling over the same period. Some 204 dogs were seized by forces across Wales in 2022 under the Dangerous Dogs Act, according to figures obtained through Freedom of Information requests – up from 147 in 2018, a 39% increase.

That worked out as one dog every 1.8 days in 2022. By the time the FOI requests were made in September 2023, the forces had taken 162 dogs into custody.

Hardworking midwives

Statistics obtained by Scottish Labour via a Freedom of Information request show that 2,079 hours of overtime were worked by staff in maternity and midwifery units in NHS Ayrshire and Arran in 2022/23.

Missing pants

A false moustache and a Queen Victoria drawing are among more than 1,700 items missing from museums in England. Freedom of information requests to museums and galleries which receive public funding asked for details on absent items from the last 20 years.

It comes after British Museum member of staff was sacked after more than 2,000 artefacts disappeared. Other unusual missing items include a Saddam Hussein calendar and an aircraft navigational system.

image: Marianna OLE on Pexels

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