You are currently viewing Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 9/2/2024 – #FOIFriday

Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 9/2/2024 – #FOIFriday

You sent off a Freedom of Information request. And you’ve got an answer!

But then when you come to publish a story based on that answer, suddenly the public body is disputing what it sent you in the first place.

This happens depressingly often with FOI, including with the story on birth trauma below.

Talking about compensation payments, Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “The figures were drawn form a Freedom of Information (FOI) response issued by the trust. However, due to human error, there were inaccuracies with the data provided.”

The Manchester Evening News asked for an explanation of the ‘inaccuracies’ and updated figures. However, the trust has not provided that information.

These kind of inaccuracies are very unhelpful. It does also suggest some poor quality control in putting together responses, a lack of tacking FOI seriously, or just rubbish records management.

If you’re lucky, you’ll spot that something doesn’t look right and then get the chance to contact the public body and get updated information.

However, sometimes the inaccuracies are not obvious – the information passes the sense check. Or it doesn’t pass the sense check but the public body won’t answer follow-up questions.

(This example is even more complicated, as the FOI was done by a separate organisation so the story is an extra step removed from the original request and response).

The options are to publish the figures you have with any response you can get from the public body (they usually get a bit more responsive once it gets to the press office), or give up on the hopelessly dodgy information.

Some slightly more successful FOI stories this week…

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Birth injuries

Three hospital trusts in Greater Manchester have paid out almost £6 million in compensation for injuries suffered by mothers and babies during birth in the last two years.

Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Tameside Hospital, has paid out £3,802,500 in compensation for birth injury claims from November 2021 to November 2023, data from a Freedom of Information request (FOI) seen by the M.E.N has shown. The birth injury rate at the trust during that period was 394 injuries per 1,000 deliveries.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which operates the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary, has paid out £1,560,000 from November 2021 to November 2023 to patients who had suffered injuries while giving birth under the trust’s maternity care, according to an FOI.

Registered dogs

Thousands of American XL bully dogs will be spared after their owners successfully applied for exemptions to having them put down. Official figures show that a total of 26,586 owners applied for their pets to be exempt from being confiscated and destroyed under new rules.

Of these, 22,420 were successful – and 4,166 were denied – according to a response by the Department for the Environment to a freedom of information request. The demand for exemption certificates appears to have taken the Government by surprise. In the FOI release it said it had ‘originally estimated that England and Wales had a population of 10,000 XL bully dog types’.

Bed help

Applications to council crisis funds for help with beds for children have more than quadrupled in half a decade, a children’s charity has revealed.

A freedom of information request to 151 councils in England by Barnado’s found that on average local authorities received 180 crisis requests for help with children’s beds and bedding in 2018-19. By 2022-23 this had risen to 450 requests.

The FOI responses also revealed that in 2018/2019 there were 4,316 requests for beds and bedding for children – of which 2,294 were successful (53%). However, by 2022/23 this had risen to 17,534 applications, of which 7,227 were successful (41%).

Ambulance delays

More than 12,000 Scots died before reaching hospital by ambulance in 2023, Scottish Labour has revealed.

Party leader Anas Sarwar said the statistic, obtained using freedom of information legislation, shows the “real-world consequences” of “SNP incompetence”.

The figure increased from more than 7,100 in 2019 – a 70% rise in four years.

Gun crime

Hundreds of children as young as 11 have been arrested by police for gun crimes over the last two years, new figures revealed today. Freedom of information requests to all 45 police forces in England and Wales found 553 children were arrested for gun crimes last year.

Figures for the previous year from the 21 forces that provided a number showed there were 438 children arrested, meaning the annual surge in suspected child gun crime rose 26 per cent in the last 12 months.

But more than half the forces either refused to provide the information or said they could not compile it, meaning the true total for last year will be far higher.

Non-disclosure agreements

Councils in the Gwent area have spent more than £3.2 million on settling non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with staff who leave their employment.

Figures obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests show the five local authorities in the Gwent region have settled 227 NDAs with departing employees since 2019.

By far the biggest user of NDAs is Caerphilly County Borough Council, responsible for signing 116 such agreements in that time – more than the other four Gwent councils combined.

Stolen dogs

A Freedom of Information request submitted to Sussex Police by Newsquest’s AI team revealed 32 dogs were reported taken in total. This included six in May and four in August.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, Sussex Police have set up Operation Collar to try and prevent these thefts.

Job losses

Apparently, based on the last story, I might be out of a job as an FOI reporter due to AI…and there appears to be other potential job cuts due to artificial intelligence.

A £200,000 saving made by Derby City Council using new and controversial Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology was achieved through losing agency staff, it has been confirmed. Last year, council chiefs said in a meeting that the introduction of AI assistants Darcie and Ali on the council’s main phone line and website had saved Derby taxpayers the hefty six-figure sum.

But now new information has emerged through a Freedom of Information request that the £200k savings were met by the reduction of four full-time agency workers in the customer management department. The council says reducing agency workers has meant existing internal council jobs have been protected.


NHS hospitals are spending tens of thousands of pounds battling a surge in rat infestations. The average number of times NHS trusts have called in pest control services to get rid of rats and mice has risen by 50 per cent since 2018.

At Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, pest controllers were called in 409 times last year – more than once a day across six hospital buildings. It has spent nearly £16,000 on pest control at three hospitals alone since 2021, data released under the Freedom of Information Act shows.

Barts Health Trust in London has called out pest control more than 1,000 times in the past five years.


Southampton City Council has forked out more than £100k over the last two years to tackle a rising number of bed bug infestations. In total, £103,724 has been spent on clearing the critters between November 1, 2021, and November 1, 2023, when the authority received 473 complaints.

Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request by show that between November 2021 and 2022, 205 complaints were made to the authority. But during the same period the following year, 268 reports were made of infestations, a 31 per cent rise.

Unused buildings

A total of 264 buildings and pieces of land in Hertfordshire are currently unused or derelict, new figures have revealed.

The numbers were revealed following a Freedom of Information Request (FOI) made to Hertfordshire County Council on Wednesday, January 10.

A spokesperson for the local authority commented: “Some are small pieces of verge land, some are small areas of woodland, there are a few roadway/pathways, and then there are some larger sites that are being held for either future service use or future development.”

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