Our Freedom of Information Act headlines from the United Kingdom, week ending 12th October 2012.

Freedom of Information headlines week ending 12th October

A round up of all the most important Freedom of Information news, and best uses for the week ending 12th October 2012. Brought to you by @FOIdirectory. Follow us on Twitter for updates and news about FOI, plus a brand new website coming soon.

Storified by FOI Directory · Fri, Oct 12 2012 08:14:11

There have been some fantastic Freedom of Information Act led exposes in the UK media this week, here’s a round up of some of the best and other FOI developments. 
1. To kick us off this week we have the First Minister’s Office in Ireland and their incredibly poor performance in responding to FOI requests. During the last year they did not respond to 435 requests within the 20 working day period set out by the request.
One request has been waiting for a response for 300 days and a judicial review has been reported (does anyone know of requests which have taken longer to receive a response tweet @foidirectory). 
The News Letter claims the annual report into FOI responses was buried. Nice transparency there… 
Sharp rise in FoI breaches at Stormont – Local – Belfast NewsletterTHERE has been a dramatic rise in the number of times Stormont departments are breaking the Freedom of Information Act, the News Letter c…
2. By far the most fear mongering FOI story of the last week. Broadland District Council have accused companies of wasting taxpayers’ money by asking Freedom of Information requests.  
One of the main problems with this is companies are taxpayers (well they should be, the council would do better to point this out if they aren’t).   
Companies accused of wasting Broadland taxpayers’ cash on Freedom of Information requests – News – Norwich Evening NewsThorpe Lodge, Broadland District Council’s offices By richard wheeler Tuesday, October 9, 2012 6:15 PM Companies have today been accused …
The next problem with this story is the council’s worry about in the increasing costs of FOI. Annually they spend £14,425 on FOI requests. They’re worried it will increase to £15,000. Yes, £525. 
To put this in context their annual budget is £45,000,000. 
Here’s even more context: 
@FOIdirectory @FoIManUK They give 15k a year to Council members as an IT allowance: http://www.broadland.gov.uk/PDF/BDC_cllrs_payments_2011-12(3).pdf #dropintheoceanFOI Monkey
3. £8m has been left unspent by councils across the country last year which was earmarked to help those on benefits to help pay their rent. 
Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea councils feature in the list, which isn’t too surprising considering their better off inhabitants but it is worrying councils such as Manchester and Birmingham who may have more residents in need of extra support did not spend their allowances. 
£8m in DHP funds left unspent by councils " Local Government " 24dash.com£8m in DHP funds left unspent by councils Councils across Britain failed to spend nearly £8m in Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) last…
4. Another FOI has revealed graduates were overcharged £36million by the student loans company during 2010/11. This increased from £24million the year before and in 2001/2002 the overpayments stood at a meagre £14,000. 
The student loans company say this huge increase is understandable though as the number of graduates has increased. 
Student Loans Company Rakes In £36.5m By Overcharging GraduatesMore and more graduates are being overcharged by the Student Loans Company every year. According to a freedom of information request, som…
5. And finally, when you’re on a big day out to the local magistrates’ courts everyone likes to take something to do to past the time while you’re waiting. And this is none more so the case in Wrexham where security staff seized 11 knives, 15 tools, 30 cameras, and 24 alcoholic beverages. 
Knives and tools seized by security staff at North Wales magistrates courtsKNIVES, tools and alcohol were among nearly 100 prohibited items seized by security staff from people trying to smuggle them into a court…
That’s all for this week. If you don’t already come and follow us on Twitter @FOIdirectory for the best uses of the FOI act during the week and plenty more to come. With endorsements like this why wouldn’t you. 
#FF for the mysterious @FOIdirectory as you should always have at least one anonymous #FOI tweeter on TwitterFOI Man

I am a journalist and author. I am a staff writer at the UK edition of WIRED magazine and in 2015 my book, Freedom of Information: A Practical Guide for UK Journalists, was published. I created FOI Directory in 2012.