You are currently viewing Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 5/7/2024 – #FOIFriday

Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 5/7/2024 – #FOIFriday

If you’re in the UK, you probably voted yesterday.

Do you know why we traditionally use pencils to fill in ballot papers? A Freedom of Information request provides the answer.

A response from the Electoral Commission (yes, FOI-able public body) said that people don’t have to use the pencil, they can use their own pen.

However, pencils are provided because pens could dry out and stop working (those lids will just get lost or dropped or taken by distracted voters), spill ink all over ballots and voters, or the mark on the paper might not dry quickly enough and get smudged when ballots are folded and lead to inadvertent spoiled ballot papers.

So if you’re not too distracted by the election results, here’s some FOI stories from this week.

Cancelled operations

Last minute Labour FOI intervention ahead of the election. About 180,000 operations were cancelled by the NHS last year because of a lack of beds, staff and equipment.

The most common reason for cancelled operations and procedures was because of “staffing issues”, which was exacerbated by doctor strikes.

But other reasons included a lack of operating theatres and beds, thousands of administrative errors, and even misplaced paperwork and adverse weather, according to freedom of information data obtained by the Labour party and shared with The Telegraph.

Long waits for children

And another one.

The number of children waiting more than 12 hours in A&E has risen nine-fold in five years, official data obtained under freedom of information (FOI) laws suggest.

A total of 1,056 under-18s waited longer than 12 hours in 2023 at 29 acute NHS trusts in England that responded to the request for information, submitted by Labour, up from 116 in 2019.

At one trust in London – Barts Health NHS Foundation Trust – 293 children were forced to wait longer than 12 hours over the period before being treated.

Taxi complaints

Police received more than 100 complaints about taxi drivers driving dangerously, using their phones, and speeding in four towns over a five-year period.

A Freedom of Information request to East Suffolk Council revealed the figures relating to Beccles, Bungay, Halesworth and Lowestoft from January 2019 and March 21, 2024. It showed there 101 reports to the police for dangerous driving, using their phones, and speeding.

Defibrillators in schools

A 28-year-old rugby player who suffered a cardiac arrest has called for all schools in Wales to have a defibrillator, as is law in England. Steffan Howells, who is now an ambassador for the Hearts Cymru charity said it could be the difference between life and death.

A freedom of information request from Newyddion S4C showed most local authorities in Wales had no record of which schools had the machines.

Caerphilly council currently has the highest proportion of schools with defibrillators, clocking in at 97%, while the figure is only 15% in Carmarthenshire. Fourteen local authorities in Wales have no record at all of which of their schools have them.

Student loans

Almost 1.8 million people are now in at least £50,000 of UK student debt, data obtained by BBC News reveals. More than 61,000 have balances of above £100,000, figures from the Student Loans Company (SLC) also show, while another 50 people each owe upwards of £200,000.

The statistics were released after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the number of loan holders with above average debts who are eligible to start repayments.

Cyclists jumping the lights

An average of 11 cyclists a day are fined for running red lights in London and hit with £50 fines, figures released today reveal.

Metropolitan Police official statistics show 4,067 cyclists were fined by officers for failing to obey traffic light signals in 2023.

The figures, obtained under a Freedom of Information request, also reveal 196 cyclists were issued with £30 fixed penalty notices for riding on pavements.

Image by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels

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