Find out where your taxes go with whatdotheyknow.com
Thanks to the Freedom of Information act, you can find out all sorts of juicy titbits about public organisations. Indeed, the FOI has become the journalist's best friend in recent years, but the downside is that there's some paperwork involved. That, and you have to bother thinking of a cheeky question to ask in the first place.
Thank the Hammer of Thor then, for WhatDoTheyKnow.com, which helps you effortlessly search through a selection of FOI requests, specifically those made through the site. Alright, there's still some effort involved - you might have to type a word or two - but work with us here, will you?
What can you find out? There are restrictions on certain types of information, but reading through the correspondance is like rooting through the bins of a famous celebrity. Not that we've done that. Obviously. Anyway, some stuff we now know after an hour nosying around:
- You'll have no doubt heard the news about unsafe levels of toxins in Irish meat products. But what is the safe level to begin with? The Food Standards Agency processed a request for the information in 24 hours.
- The BBC paid £211,000 to be part of the Eurovision Song Contest this year (that's likely to be a contribution to the staging of the event and not including production costs), to provide viewers with a three hour programme of dirge, and a final opportunity to hear Sir Terry lose his rag with Eastern European politics.
- After a request was made for all email correspondence regarding WhatDoTheyKnow.com, Rother District Council had to make all of it available, including this gem which proves you should never trust a girl called Miss Anne Thrope.
- there are 116 CCTV cameras operating across Newcastle-upon-Tyne, owned by the council and other public bodies.
- The Royal Mail's Adam Crozier seemingly doesn't know how to use his expense account.
If you want to start somewhere close to home, then search for the name of your local council and see what you find. To be honest, we could sit here all day rummaging around this site, but don't forget the other use for it; making similar requests of those bodies that spend your taxes. If you want answers then get them, dammit!