You are currently viewing Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 31/5/2024 – #FOIFriday

Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 31/5/2024 – #FOIFriday

FOI is important.

Obviously, that’s my view but it’s shared by the people of Scotland, according to a survey.

A survey by the Scottish Information Commissioner (of 1,279 members of the public) found 97% agreed it was important for the public to be able to access the information held by public bodies, while only 6% felt FOI was a waste of public money (the lowest proportion since this question was first asked in 2011).

Those surveyed were also pretty keen to see FOI extended to those who supply services on behalf of or funded by public bodies, including health and social care services (like care homes) (93% agreed) and those carrying out large building and maintenance projects (94% agreed)

More than three-quarters (79%) felt it should be a criminal offence for public bodies or their officials to try to subvert FOI legislation (I’m not sure how workable this is, it’s probably going to be difficult to discern between nefarious intent and public bodies that are overwhelmed, unenthusiastic, untrained or just useless – there is a criminal offence in the Act around deliberately concealing information but it’s rarely used).


Black women in London are said to be facing a “crisis”, with higher rates of femicide in the capital than other ethnic groups, figures suggest.

The figures have been obtained by the PA news agency from the Metropolitan Police in a Freedom of Information request. They show:

  • Of the 21 femicide victims recorded by the Metropolitan Police in 2022, nine (43%) were black while eight of the 13 victims in 2023 (62%) were black.
  • These figures suggest black women are being disproportionately targeted when compared with the ethnic breakdown of the female population of London, where just 14% are black, according to the 2021 census.
  • By contrast, four of the 21 victims in 2022 were white, along with one of the 13 victims in 2013, while white women make up over half (53%) of London’s female population.
  • The pattern was different in 2021, however, with 25 femicide victims recorded by the Met, of whom 20 (80%) were white and three (12%) were black.

Police vetting

Dozens of Metropolitan Police officers remain in the force after having their vetting withdrawn, The Independent can reveal.

Information obtained under freedom of information laws shows in the last five years, 53 police officers had their vetting withdrawn while serving in the Met.

Of those, 30 are undergoing appeals, 12 had their appeals dismissed and are awaiting performance hearings, and 11 have left the force due to resigning, retiring or being dismissed.

Firefighter shortage

A fire service spent £350,000 plugging staffing shortages thousands of times in a year, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed.

Essex County Fire & Rescue Service (ECFRS) moved firefighters from their usual bases to elsewhere in the county on 2,570 occasions in 2023.

Crews have been asked to travel across the county to cover their colleagues, making journeys such as Waltham Abbey to Braintree and Hawkwell, near Southend-on-Sea, to Witham. There were 304 fire engines moved in August, with 301 in October and 278 in December.

IT problems

IT system failures have been linked to the deaths of three patients and more than 100 instances of serious harm at NHS hospital trusts in England, BBC News has found.

A Freedom of Information request also found 200,000 medical letters had gone unsent due to widespread problems with NHS computer systems.

Across England, 89 trusts confirmed they monitored and logged instances when patients could be harmed as a result of problems with their Electronic Patient Record (EPR) systems. Almost half recorded instances of potential patient harm linked to their systems

There were 126 instances of serious harm linked to IT issues, across 31 trusts and three deaths across two trusts related to EPR problem.


More than 200 public buildings in Bradford contain asbestos and four had to have it removed last year. Data obtained by law firm Irwin Mitchell through the Freedom of Information Act showed 291 removals were undertaken by 20 councils across the country in the last 12 months.

Four of those were in Bradford: at The Oaks Resource Centre (Keighley), Thornton Community Centre, Peel Park Depot and Nursery, and Beckfield EPH. Bradford Council spent around £10,100 to remove asbestos from those buildings, according to further research.

Childcare crisis

Information obtained by The Independent via a freedom of information request shows that 1,627 grants were awarded through the government’s childminder start-up grant initiative between the end of November last year and the end of March – with some 1,837 applications during this period.

Meanwhile, the number of childminders has more than halved in the last 10 years, falling from 56,200 in 2013 to 27,900 last year, leaving a huge shortfall in childcare providers.

Campaigners said the grants of up to £1,200 awarded so far are a “drop in the ocean” in a struggling childcare sector grappling with both a staffing and funding crisis.

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