You are currently viewing Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 28/6/2024 – #FOIFriday

Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 28/6/2024 – #FOIFriday

Public bodies are rubbish at answering FOI requests – in full, on time, or at all.

openDemocracy has analysed 6,000 rulings issued by the FOI watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), between 2021 and 2023 – and found almost a quarter related to public authorities’ failure to hit the 20-working day deadline.

Only around a third of FOIs to central government departments and agencies were granted in full last year.

On the subject of unanswered FOI requests, this might be an interesting one to keep an eye on. Wales’ First Minister took a trip to India to meet Tata bosses. The Welsh Government is refusing to disclose the total cost of the travel, accommodation or additional costs of the trip, saying it’s not in the public interest to release that information as it will be released anyway in 10 months time at the end of the financial year.

While public bodies can refuse to release information because they plan to release it later on, that exemption is subject to the public interest test. And beside just being in the public interest to release information like this (and information about how public bodies spend money generally), the amount of time until publication is also a factor (why is this information not being published quarterly!).

Long A&E waits

A Freedom of Information request by Dispatches to NHS England found almost 400,000 patients were waiting in A&E for more than 24 hours in the 12 months from April 2023 to March 2024, a 5% rise on the same period last year.

This included 54,000 who spent more than 48 hours in A&E and almost 19,000 who were there for 72 hours.

Long cancer waits

Up to 700 cancer patients are waiting more than six months for treatment, new figures show. A Freedom of Information request showed 59 per cent of responding NHS trusts had longest cancer waiting times exceeding 200 days.

And 12 per cent recorded queues lasting over a year. NHS targets state no one should wait more than two months between the date of a referral and the start of treatment.

Breathing trouble

More than 2,000 children aged under five have been admitted to a Romford hospital with breathing problems over the past year, prompting calls to curb pollution in Havering.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request sent to Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT) found that 2,142 children under five were admitted to Queen’s Hospital with respiratory difficulties in 2023.

Coach fires

A Devon school bus that became a burnt-out shell after bursting into flames while transporting children back home this week has prompted wider safety concerns about the frequency of bus and coach fires. On Monday, June 24, a 53-seater vehicle taking children home suddenly caught fire and had to be ditched into a hedge and evacuated on the A39 Shamble Way, in Lynton.

The incident has prompted Devon and Cornwall RMT regional union organiser Barry West to raise concerns about the ‘significant’ number of bus fires over the past seven years in the UK and share fears that it could take a catastrophic event such as Grenfell before safety standards are improved.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request recently submitted by Mr West to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has confirmed there have been 218 bus and coach fires in the past two years in the UK. Of those, none were deemed catastrophic.

Green plans

Freedom of Information request reveals many NHS Trusts do not have clear decarbonisation roadmaps in place despite ambition to reach net zero by 2040. Nearly a third of NHS Trusts in England that responded to a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request are not measuring their carbon footprint, according to new data revealed by engineering firm Schneider Electric.

It found that 29 per cent of NHS Trusts are not measuring their emissions, despite NHS England having previously committed to a target to achieve net zero direct emissions by 2040. The results of the FOI request also showed 31 per cent of Trusts do not yet have a clear roadmap in place to reach their emissions goals.


Motorists have been fined more than £630k for breaking a three-tonne weight restriction on Albert Bridge.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request found Kensington and Chelsea council issued drivers 11,766 fines worth £130 between January 9 and May 27 this year.

The new restriction, which came into force on January 11, is meant to deter heavy good vehicles from using the popular west London bridge.

Two thirds of motorists had their fine reduced to £65 because they paid within the 14 day window. At least 2,995 fines were forced to pay the full amount. Another 737 fines worth between £195 and £260 were handed out.

Parking charges

Drivers using council-run car parks at night have been hit by a 22% hike in average rates in two years, according to new analysis.

People using the car parks in the evenings have seen the typical hourly fee increase from £1 in 2022 to £1.22 this year, figures obtained by Churchill Motor Insurance suggest.

Average daytime hourly rates have increased by 11% over the same period, from £1.15 to £1.29.

Wet weather

Last July was the wettest in the last four years in Manchester.

Met Office data, obtained by a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, showed that July 2023 was the wettest summer month in Manchester (specifically the office’s rain gauge at Heaton Park) since 2020 with 271.7 mm in of rainfall – more than the combined summer total from June to August for 2021 and 2022.

July 2023, which had just five rain-free days, had almost 40% more rainfall than the monthly average precipitation for North West England and North Wales (196.2mm).

Big beasts

South Yorkshire Police have disclosed details of a string of mystery ‘big cat’ sightings that they have received from worried members of the public in recent years.

The details have been unveiled after a Freedom of Information request by The Star, which has uncovered six reported sightings, which have been made in Sheffield and elsewhere in South Yorkshire.

We put a request into the police for details of sightings across South Yorkshire, after DNA confirmed that there was a beast in the UK.

The DNA of a big cat has been identified from a swab taken from the remains of a dead sheep in the Lake District. The DNA of the Panthera genus was found following analysis carried out at the University of Warwick. South Yorkshire Police revealed to us reports that had been put onto their system under the words ‘panther’, ‘big cat’ and ‘wild cat’. They were unable to isolate the term ‘Puma’ because of the number of references to that model of car in crime reports, rather than the breed of big cat.

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