You are currently viewing Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 26/1/2024 – #FOIFriday

Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 26/1/2024 – #FOIFriday

Possibly a fairly quiet week Freedom of Information wise – or Google Search isn’t cooperating.

It may be that things are a little thinner on the ground post the holidays (when people tend to use FOI to fill some news gaps).

FOI was still hitting the headlines this week at the Covid enquiry – where we’re back to communications taking place on WhatsApp…and then being deleted (which seems to have been a bit of a pandemic trend).

The deletion of Scottish Government WhatsApp messages during the Covid pandemic may have “subverted the principles of Freedom of Information”, the Scottish Information Commissioner has said.

Commissioner David Hamilton said some of the evidence revealed by the UK Covid Inquiry about Nicola Sturgeon and other senior figures systematically deleting material “beggars belief”.

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Self-harm at jobcentres

More than a hundred suicide and self-harm incidents have been recorded at Jobcentres and other benefits providers since 2014, it can be revealed. The worrying figures, uncovered through Freedom of Information requests, will reinforce fears over the effect of the Government’s punitive welfare policies, such as disability tests and sanctions.

The data, covering England, Scotland and Wales, was provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the government department responsible for running the benefits system. It shows the number of so-called “fast track” incidents that must be reported to the DWP, which then carries out an investigation. One of the categories of fast track incident is “Suicide/Self harm incident”.

Council tax debt collection

Referrals to bailiffs in England and Wales to recover unpaid council debts have risen by nearly 20%, a BBC investigation has found.

Birmingham’s 500% rise in referrals between 2022 and 2023 topped the list of 280 councils that replied to a File on 4 Freedom of Information request. Figures suggest there is £500m of uncollected public debt each year, adding to councils’ strained finances.

Pest control

Figures provided by Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT) under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that so far this financial year it has dealt with two pest problems on its property. The figures show that in the year 2021/22 it dealt with two reports of pests on trust property, resulting in it spending £26,875 to deal with the problem.

In 2022/23 it dealt with four pest incidents and spent £28,327 on pest control. So far this year (2023/24) the trust has dealt with two pest incidents and spent £23,516.

Nicked cars

The Ford Fiesta was the UK’s most-stolen car during 2023, according to new data. In fact, sixteen of the Blue Oval’s famous small cars were pinched each day during 2023 – equating to one every 88 minutes.

Though the Fiesta was axed by Ford in July 2023, the number of examples stolen didn’t even contract in the latter half of the year when production ended. LeaseLoco, which issued a Freedom of Information request to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) for stolen car data, says that increasing demand for second-hand Fiesta parts could also have contributed to thieves making them more of a target than before.

Image by cottonbro studio via Pexels

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