You are currently viewing Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 16/2/2024 – #FOIFriday

Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 16/2/2024 – #FOIFriday

Getting an answer – any answer – to your Freedom of Information request isn’t always easy. And it might be getting harder.

Statistics obtained by Scottish Labour shows that in 2023, the Scottish Government received 4,459 freedom of information requests. But just 1,434 of these received a full response within the legal timescales – meaning 68% of FOIs were either late, refused or redacted.

The figures are similar for UK Government departments as a whole. For July to September 2023, a similar 68% were either fully or partially withheld or just unanswered.

The figures suggest the growing problem with requests getting no or very slow responses. During the quarter, 30% of requests were fully withheld (a little below average for the past decade and a bit) and 14% were partially withheld (the same as the average).

However, for a quarter (24%) of requests a response is still outstanding. That was the highest proportion on record since figures began in 2010.

So which stories saw success with their FOI request this week…

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Cancelled projects

A variation on the how much did that cost question – how much was spent on the thing that didn’t happen?

Plans to build two new platforms at Manchester Piccadilly were scrapped last year. The plans for platforms 15 and 16 at Piccadilly, which included upgrades at Oxford Road, were supposed to fix rail chaos across the North of England.

The Manchester Evening News can now reveal how much money was spent on the Oxford Road to Manchester Piccadilly project before it was cancelled. The figures obtained following a Freedom of Information request to Network Rail reveal that the cost of developing the project was £23m.

Waiting for a home

One that could be explored for different councils across the country.

Freedom of Information requests from the Scottish Conservatives to Scotland’s 32 local council authorities have revealed that, based on the 27 authorities who responded, 39,875 people with disabilities are currently waiting to be housed.

Of the 39,875 revealed, 1,569 are disabled children under the age of 18. The true total across Scotland is likely to be even higher, as five councils said they did not hold the relevant data.

Damaged police cars

This one also potentially works anywhere and for different types of public bodies that run their own vehicles.

Figures obtained from the PSNI via a Freedom of Information request from Belfast Live show that £3,740,810 has been spent by the force in fixing banged up vehicles since 2019. The figures also show that almost 5,000 incidents have been recorded in which damage was caused to PSNI vehicles during the same time.

The highest number of incidents annually was recorded in 2021, when the force forked out more than £1million for fixing vehicles damaged in 1192 separate incidents.

Chief Superintendent Sam Donaldson of the PSNI’s Operational Support Department said there were 45 ‘ramming incidents’ on the force’s vehicles in 2023, while damage can also be caused by vandalism and road crashes.

Sex offender address changes

Data released to BirminghamLive by West Midlands Police under freedom of information laws revealed how often sex pests move around in our region.

During 2023, a total of 706 registered sex offenders notified WMP they were changing address. This could have included some who moved more than once.

Meanwhile, offenders notified officers they were intending to travel abroad – and were given permission to do so – on 462 occasions, more than once a day on average.

Stressed out officers

We’ve covered an increase in staff absence in the NHS due to stress, depression and anxiety, but this seems to be an issue that’s more widespread.

Figures obtained by Scottish Labour using freedom of information legislation show that between 2018-19 and 2022-23, the number of working days lost to mental health absences soared by 67% among police officers and 165% among police staff.

In total, 59,073 police officer working days and 22,828 police staff working days were lost to mental health absences in 2022/23. In 2018/19, 8,623 working days were lost for police staff due to mental health, while police officers lost 35,283 working days in 2018/19.

Victorian diseases

Research shows there were 28,379 cases of rickets and 269 cases of scurvy since 2019, according to data, released after Freedom of Information requests were sent to 78 NHS trusts.

Scurvy is caused by not having enough vitamin C in your diet over a long period. According to the NHS, symptoms of the condition include feeling very tired, weak, irritable, sad, suffering from severe joint pain, swollen and bleeding gums, with teeth sometimes falling out, and having skin that bruises easily.

Rickets is a condition that affects bone development in children, most commonly due to a lack of vitamin D or calcium. It causes bone pain, poor growth and soft, weak bones that can lead to bone deformities.

Match day high

Cops found traces of cocaine in Wrexham FC’s toilets on three occasions during their record-breaking 2022-23 season. Officers tested for the Class A drug on three matchdays, a Freedom of Information request revealed.

Traces of cocaine were found at the ground last February at games against Wealdstone Athletic and Dorking Wanderers, and two months later for the clash with Oldham Athletic. It comes after the 2022 Boxing Day match when a fan was caught snorting powder in the toilets.

Picture by Marius Mann on Pexels

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