Saturday 24 September 2016


I am going to take a bit of a Hiatus on this blog for a bit.  The reason is because of a number of things, but the main one is that I am running out of ideas to do. 

Initially, I did this purely as a form of stress relief and a way of investigating if there were any big stories.  I did this as a way of finding out what the local, and national government, does for you.   I found out so much in my time of doing this from vaccines ingredients, ships filled with explosives off the coast of Anglesey, how many cold war structures there are around the place, and so on.

I have found so much and my poor little brain is really trying hard to find new things to look at. So I have decided that  am going to take a break.  The reason is because as was mentioned in earlier post, I have a very shotgun approach on what is going on in this blog. I literally have asked as many interesting and diverse topics as I can think of to get.

When I come back I hope to be a bit more focused on what is going on and hopefully have a few more things in the pipeline.  I so still have a few posts up my sleeve, but I am not going to post daily like I did.

So sorry for those regular readers. I will be back thought. 

Wednesday 21 September 2016

Street Lights

Street lights are a funny thing. They illuminate the place and give a gentle glow to an area.  In the UK these street lights used to be a light orange colour (Which was pretty funny) but since then, the councils have been upgradings these to LED bulbs. LED bulbs offer far more illumination for far less energy. Everyone's a winner when you use them.  The question that gave me some thought was how much each council in Wales is using them.  

So I asked all the councils in Wales the same thing, which was:

  1. How many street Lights does you authority operate
  2. How many have been upgraded to LED bulbs
  3. How much saving have you made because of this.  

And so the answers came back:

LED Operated
16% energy saving


30% - 50% Energy Saving

550 at present


Merthyr Tydfil
Neath Port Talbot


£13000 if all changed
Vale Of Glamorgan


A quick look through this shows the huge amount of savings that a council can make IF they swap to LED bulbs. The thing that also makes me proud is that Merthyr Tydfil have transferred ALL of their lights over to LED and they have saved a massive 73% saving!  That’s amazing!

Before I go any further anyone who has not stated how much they have saved is because they were not sure how much it was.   Even a small amount of LED bulbs can make a massive world of saving.

Tuesday 20 September 2016

Tower Hamlets

The FoI act is about obtaining documents and information. It is about getting the information that is held by the government and getting it to us. As can see what the government is up to and we can see what is going on, on the inside of the houses of power. It is one of the best pieces of law that has come out of Westminster for years. So why bring this up here again? Well because I found a request that I liked and it showed what the FOI can do for people.

An investigation was doing into Tower Hamlets into a data protection breech that was committed within the council and as a result the Ico was asked to investigate this matter. Well the investigation didn't go as well as could be and was stopped. As a result this has made many of the residents there unhappy.

This has been reported into many times and you can find it out on many blogs (Such as thisone) but there are times when you need to go a bit deeper. Which is where this request comes into its own. Abdul Hai is someone who lives in the Tower Hamlets area of London and has done numerous investigations into the work of the Tower Hamlets. One of the things that he looked at was the correspondence between the ICO and theTower Hamlets.

They do give a very good insight into what is happening in this investigation and some of the things that happened during the investigation. It also shows us that we can gain this and explore some of the inner depths of what has been said.


The reasons that I love this is because it helps our understanding of what is going on. The IcO dint stop the investigation. They dont have that authority. What they did is look into the processes that happened into the council and look at what is going on. As a result they just investigatied the process that happened.

This is a great example of how we can gain a better insight into what is happening on the inside of the council and other government processes. I also love that we can see what they were talking about, as well.

Monday 19 September 2016

Fire Service FOI requests

The fire service is something that we all rely on at some point. They are one of the most vital emergencies services and the work that they do is amazing.  We all love the fire service and if you ever see the work that they do, and how fast they can get a move on, it is truly amazing.  Yet how much do we truly know about them?  Do we keep as much scrutiny as we do the police?  Do we check their movements as much?  No.

AS I have asked all the councils and police in Wales  how many FoI requests that they have answered, I turned my eye towards the Fire service. So I asked them all the same question, which was:

1) How many FoI request did you receive from the time period 01/01/15 to 01/01/16
2) How many of the above FoI requests were answered within the 20-day time frame
3) How many did you refuse to answer

The answer was thus the answer was:

Time Frame
2 - exempt
2 - widely available
Mid and West Wales Fire Rescue
111 (see request for details)

This surprised me for the sheer lack of requests that they received.  If you compare this to the councils and the police (I Can't find the links, sorry). Does it mean that we value them less or does it mean that we didn't know we could send them?  I didn't know until I started this.  The thing is what would we ask them?  They do a lot.  It also shows use that they are pretty good at getting back on these things too. (As they got back to nearly all the requests within the time frame).

So what have we learnt?  We need to ask the fire service some more questions...

Dementia research in Wales - Delays...

A little while back I saw this report into dementia mapping of England. It basically looked at staffing levels, amount spent and training that had been given. It was something that made my mind spin. Due to the work of the Welsh assembly government, the NHS in Wales is a different matter from the one in England and as a result we do not have the same stats as the one in England. So I decided that I would Investigate this one a little more.

So I sent all of the NHS in Wales the same question:

  1. How much money has your board allocated to the provision of people with dementia
    2) How many staff do you have which are trained in dementia care
    3) What is the training that they have to undertake
    4) How many patients do you have, at time of writing, which have long term (Over 2 years) dementia conditions
    5) Which organisations do you work with outside your own to help and aid people with dementia
All of these questions help us to build a picture of what the NHS in Wales is going to help you and me in our elderly years. As we get older the issue surrounding dementia are going to increase. We will need far more support on this issue and we will need far more help for our families. This is one of those issues which will increase in every way over the next ten years.

So with this in mind all but TWO of the trusts that I asked have delayed their response to me. This is something that I was a little bit disappointed with because I would have thought that they would have had this information readily available to us.

I am deliberately not going to give the answers that I have gain so far because I should put them into context with the other trusts. The thing that bothers me is that four of them have gone past the limit by four days (At time of writing). Over something that is going to be more important as we get older, this is a big issue.

I already know that the NHS in Wales has done a lot of work into this, as has been shown in the posts on the NHS research and the University research, but it is still annoying that this has not yet come through on the specifics.

The reasons that I am writing this is because I wanted you to know that there is something in the pipe line.

Saturday 17 September 2016

Open source in the NHS

A little while back I asked all the councils in Wales how much they spent on Open Data. Open data is information that it produced by the government and then given out to the world to use with as they will.  It has been very useful in order to develop systems and expand them.  So what about the NHS?  Has that done anything to improve the use of open data?

This is something that Ben Seawell investigated for his Masters Degree. The questions that he asks is:

1. Does your organisation have an Open Source Strategy?
2. What Software and Technologies did you choose for your Integrated Digital Care Technology Fund funded projects?
3. Is the software and technology you have used for your project an Open Source Product?
4. Does the software / technology interface with another system? If so is the interface based on Open Standards / Open APIs?

These are pretty good questions and do give us a lot of information on what they are doing to promote open data, and open sources material as possible.

The answers were a little more interesting than I realised. A lot of the different NHS trusts basically said that they did not do that much for open data \ open sources (which is fair enough to an extent), but it was the reasons for the lack of open source which was interesting.

First off the NHS is a vast and complex beast.  It has so many departments and different areas to it that it is unreal. To get all of these departments working together to make a single document. Not only that it would then need to have a number of different data protection measures which would hold this up for years.

How would you develop open sources programmes for the population too?  This was a point that was investigated by a number of the responses (Not using those words). Most hospitals could do something about patients attending but after that there is nothing really that they could do.

I loved this request because it showed that there is some other people who are interesting in open data.  There are other people who are interested in the use of open sources software being developed by the government (See previous posts such as here, here and here).  It also shows how complex a topic this is.  For something such as health, it is very personal to an individual and can be very sensitive.  Open data for public would be a nightmare in this instance. The best that we could hope for would be some development of open source software, that way we could give back to the NHS as well as take from it.

Friday 16 September 2016

Irish Cold War Structures

A little while back I decided to find all of the Cold War structures that are in Wales. I then followed this up through numerous posts to look at other areas which may have these structures. Then  I turned my eye towards the Northern Irish coastline.  With respect to our IRish cousins, I would have thought that the UK government would have put a lot of effort into them. (and because of the problems that were out there, they would have invested heavily into this).  

So I decided that I would send a request to all councils in Northern Ireland the same question, which was:

Please can you give me a list of all cold war structures that you are aware of in your borough that were used for civil defence.

So the responses that I had were as follows:

Either the UK government did not think that civil defence was that needed in Northern Ireland or there is something else going on. A few of them did refer me to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (Which a request has been sent), I was surprised by the lack of knowledge of this one (Compare this with the one above for Wales).

The being said, the Infinitely wise Beck Bbear got back in touch with me on this and stated:

In the context of your FOI to Newry and Mourne Council about Cold War Structures...

Be kind of interesting to see if they mention the Civil Defense Bunker in their area which was broken into in 1984 by one of their own elected Cllrs - a Mr J McAllister, who actually stole official Civil Defense papers from the bunker.  Civil Defense bunkers would be classed as 'Cold War Structures' since that was their function/purpose at the time.

If their answer is 'none' then you may want to ask them to explain why and refer back to the 1984 incident.

Which makes you wonder how many of these other things that are being hidden by these councils.

Wednesday 14 September 2016

FOI requests sent last year to Police

A little while back I asked all councils in Wales how many FOI requests they answered last year.  It was an interesting one that I enjoyed doing because it shows that there is a lot of interest still in local government and what it is doing. So I decided to ask this to the different police forces in Wales.  The reasons is because it is something that is interesting to know.

So I asked all of the police forces in Wales:

1) How many FoI request did you receive from the time period 01/01/15 to 01/01/16
2) How many of the above FoI requests were answered within the 20-day time frame
3) How many did you refuse to answer

It was the same as the ones that I sent to the council's, really. Again I thought that it would be interesting to ask how many were refused because it shows us which one of them does the most (Which again shows some discrepancies amongst the forces.

So the answers were:

Within Time Frame

It never fails to amaze how different authorities give different responses. Dyfed Powys stated in their response that they had a new process which allowed them to answer EVERY request in the appropriate time limit. That pretty good (Tempted to send some really dumb ones now to test that one!).   The reasons that Gwent refused was because they stated that they would have to check all their manual records and then give a response, which would take over the legal limit.

It does show, however, the different administration system that these guys have. All the other three did this in pretty good time, Gwent has a totally different process. What such disparity between them all.  Anyway, think of this, each response that is given must take less than £450 to collect (Worked out at £25 an hour).  If we assume that the average response takes 9 hours to collect (Some over, some under) then the police spent £34,500 getting back in touch with us (2760 responses / 2 *25).  And this is how much they do to keep you informed with what is going.  Pretty good, eh?

Tuesday 13 September 2016

Green Energy - Central Government

I’ve got a bug for finding out the amount that government spends on Green Energy. It is something that is interesting and also something that shows us what they are doing to help the environment. After doing the post on green energy in Wales and some of the councils in England, I wanted to see what Central government was spending on this issue.  

So I sent them all the same request, which was:

Please can you tell me how much money has your Department has invested in renewable energies for itself since 01/01/10. Please can you also state how much money it is estimated is saved because of the use of renewable energy, and what specifically it has bought.

This was an interesting one for me for a NUMBER of reasons, which I will go into below. So what were the responses?  Here we go!

Detailed breakdown of all activities.  See request


Carbon reduction
£1.7 million
See report

Energy saving measures
£2 million
At time of writing - no infor

solar panels

Cabinet Office
See below


Delayed - none - answerd on the 15/09/16



No Info







When you see the Cabinet office, the reason that this is blank is because they gave the wrong response to the wrong answer, so was not able to give you their response.

The first interesting thing was that almost ALL of the requests were late.  Monday (When they were all due) they all late, bar a few.  Hmmm…  The amount that DID NOT answer or are still late.  This is another thing that interests me.  Makes you wonder what they are trying to do.  Some of them have a pretty good reason for not getting back (such as the huge amount of buildings overseas and so forth).

The fact remains that the MOD and DEFRA spent over a million in getting to be green (The army is going green…). Shows that they care.  Shows also that some of this department have not even thought about it, either.