Daily Post

FOI Friday: Teachers causing concern, prisoners on Facebook, school place fraud and teenage career criminals

FOIFRIDAYLOGO

Teachers on the ‘concern list’ < Basildon Echo

ALMOST 170 teaching staff are on a council list showing there are concerns about their working in schools.

They are not barred from working, but schools will be aware of the list of concerns, compiled by Essex County Council.

A total of 23 teachers and 14 other school workers have been added to the list in the past five years due to allegations of a sexual nature, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Social networks in prison < Daily Record

PRISON bosses last year shut down 80 Facebook accounts run by inmates in Scotland.

The social networking pages were updated using smartphones smuggled into jails and have been used by convicts to taunt victims or contact fellow criminals.

Officials investigated 118 allegations in 2013 that prisoners were running accounts on Facebook from behind bars, freedom of information figures released yesterday revealed.

Caught defrauding the school selection process < Camden New Journal

FIVE children in Camden were removed from school or had offers of places withdrawn after their families were caught fiddling the state admissions system, the New Journal can reveal.

In a response to a Freedom of Information request, Camden Council confirmed it had conducted 11 investigations into potentially fraudulent school place applications between 2012 and 2013. It had opened only two similar probes over the previous two years.

A “fraudulent” application was defined as using a temporary address, using a family member’s address, faking religious observance or supplying false information on application forms.

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20 great storm photos which show us how journalism is changing

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The recent storms – which are continuing as I write this – have dominated many local news websites and their associated newspapers. Great images have not been in short supply.

This isn’t meant to be a ’20 great images’ post, but a collection of images which tell us something about how we cover big weather stories in 2014. The sources of the pictures, the way they were captured, the way they were used and the stories they told combine to tell us one thing: Journalism is changing, and, if the storms of 2014 are anyting to go by, for the better.

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Reporters of the future: Only quick thinkers need apply

FOI ideas image: Yarn DeliveriesReasonably often, because of my job, I get asked what I think the skills a journalist of the future needs. Often – and this is particularly true of university academics – they immediately give me a buffet of options to choose from. Is it social media? Is it data? Is it video? What about podcasting?

My answer, sadly, doesn’t help much: Generally, it’s all of the above. But none of the above are any good if you don’t display the most important skills of all: Accuracy, curiosity and a desire to share.

When I was training on the Citizen series of free newspapers in Preston, I was lucky to be surrounded by a number of people who took the time and effort to knock a cocky 18-year-old into shape, ranging from a photographer called Rob Underdown who, over a pint, advised me on how to improve my attitude in the office to Gill Ellis, then the deputy editor, who dragged me – almost kicking and screaming – to my first Preston Council meeting. The very first reporter I learnt from on work experience, Gordon McCully, taught me the importance of great contacts and sent me out on what turned out to be the splash in the first week I was at the Chorley Citizen.

Then there were various people on newsdesks of the Lancashire Evening Telegraph and the Citizens who took the time to point things out. But perhaps the point which sticks with me most vividly came from another mentor, a chap called Harold Heys, who was appalled my appalling spelling. Harold’s a bit of legend among a generation of Lancashire journalists who passed through this newsrooms, thanks largely to his infamous spelling tests. As a 17-year-old on work experience at the Citizen, I first encountered the spelling test and managed to get accommodation wrong.

Four years later and it was still my password to access the company editorial system every day. As ways of teaching you to spell, it’s second to none, if a bit limited. As a way of driving efficiency in the newsroom, it’s less effective. Anyway, Harold drummed into me – and many others – that the most important skill a journalist should hone was accuracy.

And that’s never been truer than now, in a multimedia age where newsrooms shouldn’t be producing content for the next day’s paper, but within minutes for never-full website.

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FOI Friday: Tasered animals, council zero hour contracts, overpaid NHS staff and missing library books

Back from a summer break to make even an MP envious, here’s the return of FOI Friday. Thanks to several students on the PA Training course in Newcastle for giving me a nudge by saying they enjoyed it…

FOIFRIDAYLOGO

1. Tasered animals < Lancashire Evening Post

Police officers had to use tasers on animals on 13 separate occasions across the county between 2010 and 2012, figures reveal.

The figures were released following a Freedom of Information request to Lancashire Constabulary.

They show that in 2010 tasers were used on animals five times, a further six times in 2011 and twice in 2012.

2. Football hooliganism back < Manchester Evening News

A shock dossier compiled by the M.E.N. reveals that the menace of football hooliganism is far from extinct.

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws show police had to deal with a catalogue of booze-fuelled hooliganism at United and City games last season

3. Nurses not trusted to work without supervision < The Scotsman

MORE than a quarter of Scottish nurses placed under supervision as they cannot be trusted to be left alone are working in Lothian hospital wards, new figures have revealed.

Despite being fully qualified, there are 27 nurses in the region whose performances have been deemed so poor that bosses have had to arrange for more senior staff to watch over them.

The data, revealed under the Freedom of Information Act, showed that seven of the staff members in “management of employee capability” programmes were working in the Royal Infirmary, the region’s main acute hospital.

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FOI FRIDAY: HIV cases rise, council spending on credit cards, school transport appeals, active GMC investigations and more

FOIFRIDAYLOGOHIV cases rise sharply < < < Plymouth Herald

THE number of people who have tested positive for HIV in the city in the last five years has risen by 60 per cent, The Herald can reveal.

Figures from Derriford Hospital’s GUM Clinic, released to The Herald under a Freedom of Information Request, show that in 2008/2009 the number of people who tested positive for HIV was 28. During the last financial year, 2012/2013, that figure rose to 46.

Numbers of parents winning appeals to get help with school transport costs < < < Gloucester Citizen

UTS mean fewer parents are now entitled to get help in paying for school transport – and appeals cost Gloucestershire County Council nearly half a million pounds.

However, despite these payouts, the county council is still on target to save £1.5million on school transport by 2016.

Figures obtained in a Freedom of Information request show that in 2012-13, 89 of 113 appeals were granted, 100 of 165 appeals were granted in the previous year, and in 2010-11, 87 of 139 appeals were granted. That resulted in the council paying out £506,000 in 2012-13, although this includes money paid out for successful appeals and reviews in the previous year.

However, the number of appeals heard and the number granted fell last year.

How councils are spending money on credit cards or ‘procurement cards’ < < < Express and Star

Taxpayers have footed a bill of £7.5 million spent on council credit cards in the West Midlands in a single year – with executives using them to fund foreign trips, hotel stays and even meals at KFC.

Officers in local authorities have used them to pay for visits to Paris and Venice, a tour of Arsenal Football Club and even pay off parking tickets slapped on cars by their own council’s wardens.

An investigation by the Express & Star has revealed five councils spent a total of £7.5m in just one financial year – on almost 1,500 ‘purchase’ or ‘procurement’ cards that are used by their staff.

They have bought two patio sets costing a total of £640.38, three SpongeBob SquarePants cushions at £11.97, eight ukuleles for £159.92 and a bowler hat priced £9.99.

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FOI FRIDAY: Unpaid dinner money, pothole costs, Border Agency fines and tots attacking teachers

FOIFRIDAYLOGO1. Tots attacking Teachers – Clydebank Post

A new twist on the story about teachers being hit by youngsters:

NURSERY staff in West Dunbartonshire have been subjected to 14 violent or physical attacks by pre-school tots – the highest figure recorded in the last five years.

Statistics obtained by the Clydebank Post under freedom of information legislation revealed that during the current term, up to the end of April, there have been 163 pupil-on-staff attacks across the entire school estate.

But while the figures relating to nurseries and special schools has jumped, the number of incidents reported in primary and secondary schools is at its lowest level for the same period.

The council points out the 14 pre-school incidents amount to only 0.6 per cent of the 2200 children attending its pre-school centres and insists it takes all matters of this kind “very seriously”.

2.Petrol station drive offs – Shropshire Star

I particularly liked the level of detail in this story – I’ve seen the ‘fuel thefts on the up’ story before, but the quotes from the petrol station managers really add context:

A Freedom of Information request made by the Shropshire Star showed that between January 1, 2012, and January 1, 2013, 102 drivers attempted to escape petrol forecourts without paying, an average of two a week.

Of those 102 offences, 12 were settled with a community resolution, four people had the crime taken into consideration with other charges and two people were charged.

Police were unable to confirm the punishment behind one of the convictions.

A West Mercia Police spokesman said: “During the period in question there were around 250 reports of people making off without payment from petrol stations in Shropshire.

“The large majority of these were found to be genuine errors where there was no intent to commit an offence and payment was made soon after.

3. Who would steal someone else’s dentures? – Ipswich Star

A set of dentures, someone’s lunch and a patient trolley are among the items stolen from Ipswich Hospital in the last five years.

A Freedom of Information request by The Star revealed that since 2009, 95 items have been reported stolen from the Heath Road trust.

Along with more traditional items – cash, wallets, laptops, mobile phones and handbags – items including a pair of dentures, somebody’s lunch, a patient trolley, tins of coffee and tea, and a desk fan were also pinched.

Hospital spokeswoman Jan Ingle said that in the last five years the number of incidents of theft had fallen.

“We are the size of a small town with around 8,000 people on site each day,” she said. “When we consider that and look at the number of thefts it is very reassuring to see that given the size of the hospital and how busy we are, the number of thefts are relatively small.

“But one theft is one too many, especially if it is from somebody who is poorly and vulnerable.”

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FOI Friday: Cannabis, university spending, race crimes at the football and asbestos in council buildings

FOIFRIDAYLOGOUnpaid court fines tops £4million – Bedfordshire On Sunday

MORE than £4 million in court fines is owed to courts in Bedfordshire, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

The figures, released by Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS), show that last September the amount of fines owed to the county’s courts stood at £4,286,800.

The criminal with 145 crimes to his names – Newcastle Journal

A ONE-MAN crime wave racked up 145 offences in two years, re-offending figures have revealed.

The string of crimes makes the 20-year-old male from Durham the region’s most prolific offender.

He was closely followed by a 38-year-old female and a 45-year-old male who committed 130 crimes each between January 1, 2011, to December 31, 2012, say Durham Constabulary.

In total, the top nine offenders together were responsible for 702 crimes across the force area.

Freedom of Information requests to North East police forces revealed just 19 criminals were behind more than a thousand crimes in the region over the last two years.

1000 council buildings containing Asbestos – North Wales Daily Post

SCHOOLS, leisure centres and public toilets are among more than 1,000 council-owned buildings in North Wales which contain asbestos.

A Freedom of Information request by the Daily Post has revealed that all types of the dangerous substance which is now illegal to use – are found in buildings across the region including the most hazardous material, crocidolite.

The figures showed Gwynedd to have the highest number of buildings containing asbestos with 409 in total, which included Arfon Leisure Centre in Caernarfon, Bangor Swimming Pool and Hafod Y Gest care home in Porthmadog.

Pauper funeral rise in Plymouth – Plymouth  Herald

ALMOST 100 people in Plymouth have been buried in so-called ‘paupers’ graves’.

The depressing statistic paints a harrowing picture of people in the community dying penniless and in isolation.

The figures on state-funded funerals were released to The Herald through the Freedom of Information Act.

But the reality could be much worse, since people who die in hospital are the responsibility of Plymouth Hospitals Trust.

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A great back page (and the front page wasn’t bad either)

Midweek football matches can be a nightmare for daily newspapers. Even with deadlines pushed back to ensure the match report gets in, it can be a down-to-the-wire battle to get everything in before the presses roll.

So with that in mind, I loved this back page from the Daily Post in North Wales today. It’s one thing to get the content in, another to make it look as though they’ve had ages to craft a brilliantly punny headline too – especially when events happened so close to the full time whistle:

Leighton Baines backpage

Leighton Baines backpage

And while I’m at it, the front page headline was a bit of a showstopper in Chester Service Station today too:

 

Daily Post front page

Daily Post front page

Why small news should be big news for local newspapers – mock it at your peril

Do you remember the story of the burnt office chair which appeared in the Westmorland Gazette? Back in 2007, the posting of what was essentially a nib on the Gazette’s website led to widespread sniggering behind hands about how a local newspaper could cover the torching of a swivel seat in a local park.

Five years on, and the story still sporadically attracts attention in the comments section. Such gentle (and in some cases, not so gentle) mocking of local news goes with the territory for reporters up and down the country – but should we be joining in?

In recent weeks, Hold The Front Page mocking this nib in the Lake District Herald  about the owner of a property being called by police to lock a door, and widespread mirth on Twitter about a Sale and Altrincham Messenger story about a pan fire in which the contents of the pan were destroyed by fire.

At the same time, respected journalist Peter Sands also appears to be leading an assault against what he describes as ‘non news’. In his latest example, he cites a Runcorn and Widnes Weekly News (disclaimer, I work for Trinity Mirror, which publishes the News) story which reports that no Jimmy Savile victims from Runcorn (assuming there are any) have made themselves known to Cheshire Police. Other examples highlighted on Sands’ blog include a dog which suffered an injured nose, a mattress that fell off the back of a lorry forcing a car to stop, a pasty three days past its sell-by date being sold to a young mum and a Christmas tree being blown over in the wind.

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FOI FRIDAY: Hidden cuts, health and safety, crimes at the cop shop and the cost of obesity

Metro

The Tyne and Wear Metro really does creak

1. Here come the cuts

You’d think getting the nod for cash from the current government was enough to guarantee it would happen. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, William Green of The Journal in Newcastle has been able to prove that’s not the case. He managed to get hold of documents relating to a £350million upgrade to Tyne and Wear’s creaking Metro system. The Government had said ok to the money, but letters between transport secretary Phillip Hammond and Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander show that they plan to ‘look further’ at the cost of the planned upgrade, suggesting it’s far from guaranteed. This story, I think, proves there is a mountain of information inside government just waiting to be released about projects which could be hit by spending cuts.

2. Health and safety

I don’t normally include stories which have come to national prominence already but this week’s story about how health and safety documents raised questions over BP’s operations in the North Sea is worth a special mention. While BP still insists it is safer than most in the North Sea,  the story does approve the value of health and safety reports to journalists. Worth looking at big companies near you?

3. A fine mess

The Bristol Evening Post took a different take on the popular parking tickets FOI requests and asked how many tickets went unpaid in Bristol. That’s £900,000 a year which goes uncollected – with 13,346 people managing to dodge the fines for various reasons.

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