You are currently viewing Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 12/4/2024 – #FOIFriday

Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 12/4/2024 – #FOIFriday

FOI Friday is about celebrating FOI successes. So as well as the stories making the news this week, there’s also a couple of updates on previous stories.

Firstly, the Liverpool Echo has won a victory in its battle with Liverpool Council for the release of the identity of two elected councillors who were summonsed to court over non-payment of council tax.

This was a fast turn-around decision notice from the ICO (the complaint appears to have been made in early February) – the prioritisation of complaints does appear to be effective in cases like this (previously the councillors in question could easily have been voted out before the case was resolved).

It’s not online yet, but quotes for the ICO decision notice suggest the ICO stuck with the view from the previous Tribunal that there is a legitimate interest in the public knowing when councillors have failed to pay council tax and who those councillors are.

That doesn’t mean in every case councillors must be named, but the balance is much more in that direction – the ICO suggests the circumstances for not naming need to be “exceptional”, and the council would have had to show an excessive or disproportionate adverse effect on the councillors’ rights and freedoms from being named.

Which is helpful for those trying to use FOI to find out about non-payers in their area.

In other updates, the optical illusion cycling lane is no more.

The cycle lane installed in Keynsham, Somerset, caused 59 injuries between March 2021 and April 2023. One person who fell described the cycle lane as an “optical illusion” as there were kerbs and painted white lines which looked similar to each other.

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A long way from home

Enfield Council has been sending local homeless families to live in north-east towns such as Hartlepool and Durham – or face being thrown out on to the street if they refuse.

Data provided following a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request submitted by the Dispatch shows that since introducing a new policy of only making one housing offer to homeless families stuck living in emergency hotel accommodation, ten out of 18 families moved have been relocated by the council to the north-east of England.

Since last November, five Enfield families have been sent to live in Hartlepool, which is 246 miles away, while another four have been sent to live in Durham, 266 miles away. A tenth family has been sent to another north-east town, Ferryhill, 256 miles away.

Other towns where local homeless families have been moved to include Blackpool (234 miles), Telford (145 miles) and Derby (126 miles).

Long waits

Shocking new data has laid bare the cost of NHS pressures in England as more than 100,000 elderly patients were left waiting over 24 hours at A&E before being admitted to hospital last year.

Figures from Freedom of Information requests obtained by the Liberal Democrats revealed a 10-fold increase in waiting times for patients aged over 65 in just a five year period.

In 2019, a total of 10,344 over-65s had to wait more than 24 hours in A&E before being admitted to hospital. This rose to a staggering 102,679 in 2023.


Two takes on the same FOI idea.

Rats in maternity wards, wasps nests in imaging areas, and ants “coming through the ceiling” are just some of the pest problems reported across the NHS over the last three years, according to new data.

Cockroaches on wards, maggots in a mortuary, and rodents in a kitchen are other issues reported by hospitals in England.

More than 18,000 pest problems were reported across NHS hospitals in England over last three years, according to data obtained under freedom of information requests by the Liberal Democrats.

The number of rat, bed bug and cockroach infestations reported to Swindon’s pest control service increased by 57 per cent from 2022 to 2023.

Figures acquired through a freedom of information request show the total number of domestic visits to tackle infestations of pests rose from 80 to 126.

The most common pest was rats and mice, which as a general rule make up 70 per cent of cases, according to Swindon Borough Council.

Shots fired

When sending FOI requests to police, you’ll often need to decide between asking for counts of incidents reported or crimes recorded. Crimes recorded can be easier data to get (as there’s clearer recording criteria), but getting numbers of reports can give you a different set of data.

Gunmen opened fire in Birmingham on average once a week in 2024, with 11 weapons blasted in the same number of weeks.

Every discharge recorded by West Midlands Police between January and mid March was unveiled as part of a Freedom of Information request to the force. Since the start of 2022, Birmingham has been rocked by a total of 119 reported shootings, including 11 so far this year, 41 in 2023 and 67 the previous year.

Sick as a dog

This looks like it might be an FOI used to follow up a personal story – to find out if there was a wider issue.

Three dogs seized by West Midlands Police have died this year after being diagnosed with canine parvovirus. Two other seized canines were also diagnosed with the potentially deadly virus during their stay, however they responded to veterinary treatment and survived.

The five affected animals were in kennels contracted by the force between January 1 and March 28 this year – a period that saw 120 seized canines boarded in total.

Cops committing crimes

Six officers or staff working for Thames Valley Police were found guilty of crimes including sexual offences and violence last year.

Figures obtained by the Oxford Mail from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) show that between January 1, 2023 and January 1, 2024, two officers or police staff were found guilty of sexual assault – while two were guilty of common assault.

One officer or member of staff was convicted for threatening behaviour and one of drink driving.

Website hits

I’m not sure I’d describe these as dismal – most Governments and public bodies would probably consider these fairly solid views for technical reports – there’s probably entire sections of taxpayer funded websites that never get looked at (and why this request could work pretty much anywhere).

A series of independence papers by the Scottish Government has been branded “dismal” over a plummeting number of downloads.

The volume of clicks has fallen from 78,571 for the first paper to 3,168 for the dossier covering Scotland’s place on the world stage.

Dog mess

The local news perennial, which always provokes a discussion (or loads of emails and letters from residents who want you to cover their issues).

No fines have been issued to Oldham dog owners who do not pick up after their pets in the last two years, according to a Freedom of Information Request (FOI). Ever since a dog fouling enforcement order for public spaces lapsed in 2021, Oldham Council has been powerless to fine or prosecute against the offence.

The FOI revealed that despite over 300 complaints lodged with the council about dog poo in public areas in the last two years, zero were issued with fixed penalty notices.

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