You are currently viewing Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 7/6/2024 – #FOIFriday

Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 7/6/2024 – #FOIFriday

Let’s talk Environmental Information Regulation requests. They’re like Freedom of Information requests, as they function in a similar way but they’re more specific in what they cover (and potentially cover a wider range of organisations).

Generally, the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 mean members of the public are entitled to request environmental information from public authorities. Usually you’d do this in the same way to making an FOI request (the requests are often handled by the same department). In fact you may just be making an FOI request, but because it relates to environmental information, it gets treated as an EIR request.

Mostly it won’t make much difference to you, particularly if you get the information you’re after. You might be slightly more likely to get the information – the exemptions are a little narrower, most are subject to the public interest test, and the costs exemption is based on a request being ‘manifestly unreasonable’ rather than a set time limit.

Unlike the Freedom of Information Act, the EIR covers organisations that carry out ‘functions of public administration’. That includes private companies, which also includes water companies (see this week’s stories…).


Around one million tons of raw sewage were released from one pumping station into the North Sea last year by a firm which boasts of its excellent environmental record.

Northumbrian Water gave the estimated release of sewage from its Whitburn site after a Freedom of Information request. A tribunal ruled the company needed to provide local Steve Lavelle with data.

Taxing pensioners

FOIs can be a really handy tool during the election (and they shouldn’t be affected by the pre-election period).

Rishi Sunak’s repeated claims that Labour will tax pensioners during the first debate of the general election has been challenged by a tax and pension expert.

Sir Keir Starmer called Sunak’s repeated claims that Labour would “raid your pensions” and put up taxes by £2000 “garbage”. The Prime Minister said that the opposition’s spending plans would result in pensioners paying tax “for the first time,” but this was almost immediately challenged by experts.

Personal finance and pensions guru Paul Lewis, formerly of Radio 4’s Money Box, refuted the claim that people claiming the State Pension did not currently pay tax under the Conservative government – revealing that DWP data shows a huge 1.5 million pensioners are already getting tax bills.

Home schooling

The number of pupils moving to home education has risen by 22% in the past year.

Freedom of Information requests showed UK councils received at least 49,819 notifications in 2022-23 from families wanting to home educate a child.

This is the highest level since 2020-2021, when there were at least 49,851 new notifications.

Supply teachers

Schools across Cardiff spent a combined £20m on agency staff last year, according to council data. The data, obtained via a freedom of information request to Cardiff Council, shows five schools spent more than half a million pounds on agency staff in the 2023-24 financial year.

Whitchurch High School spent the most on agency staff during this period, paying out £1.1m. This was followed by Llanishen High School, which spent £730,000, and Ty Gwyn School for special education, which spent £699,000. The amount spent on agency staff by schools includes non-teaching staff.

No grammar school places

Former Gravesend Grammar head Peter Read’s investigation revealed 82 pupils at state and private schools in Gravesham, Dartford and Sevenoaks secured a mark in last September’s Kent Test to make them eligible for a grammar spot.

He says the figures, which he sourced through a Freedom of Information request, have left children “badly let down by the system” and fears the numbers will only increase in the coming years.

But an increasing strain on selective places – and legislation which prevents the building of any new grammar schools – means many face missing out. They have all, instead, been offered a place at a local non-selective.

Disease of kings

Cases of a Victorian condition dubbed the “disease of kings” that causes severe pain have rocketed in the UK with a 960 per cent increase being recorded.

Gout is a type of arthritis that results in sudden, severe joint pain that became known as a monarch’s disease as it was typically triggered in middle-aged men during the Victorian era due to their overindulgence on rich foods and alcohol.

Freedom of Information data collected by MailOnline, found Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust recorded 5,864 cases of gout in 2023, the most recorded by an NHS trust. The amount represented a 960 per cent spike in cases since 2019 and represents just over one in 100 people in the city.


Northamptonshire Police have been cracking down on people who ride private e-scooters in public places by seizing the vehicles and crushing them.

Data from a Freedom of Information requested submitted by the Northampton Chronicle reveals that a total of 170 e-scooters were seized by Northamptonshire Police across the whole of the county between 2021 and 2024.

Suspicious package

A series of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to police forces and government bodies have revealed that there were 7,983 suspicious parcels reported in 2023.

Furthermore, it was found that 3,230 (40%) of these parcels contained hazardous, dangerous or illegal items.

Solutions provider Quadient, which submitted the requests, also noted that 37% of all government bodies did not report all the suspicious packages they received – suggesting the true scale of the issue is even higher.

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