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FOI Friday: Shoplifted goods, secret council reports, GP police call outs and NHS money in private hospitals

FOIFRIDAYLOGO

What gets stolen by shoplifters? < Sheffield Star

Shoplifting is having a ‘devastating impact’ on Sheffield businesses – with daily thefts ranging in value from just 10p to £15,000.

As police today released a rogues gallery of 16 wanted shoplifters, The Star can reveal 11 thefts a day are reported from city shops.

The toll represents an increase of 18 per cent in five years, to 4,211 between April 2013 and this March.

A total of 19,642 thefts from shops was reported to South Yorkshire Police in the five years since April 2009.

Victims of ‘sextortion’ < Sunday Sun

Teens are being lured into online sex chats by blackmailers who threaten to post their naked images on the internet.

Officers have received reports that youngsters in the North are being caught up in the frightening scam, labelled “sextortion”.

Across the country hundreds of victims are targeted by fraudsters who flirt with them to get them to perform sex acts and then threaten to release the images if they don’t receive money from the victim.

What do councils commission internal reports about? < York Press

SECRET reports released this week have revealed concerns about social care, information security, health and safety and budget savings at City of York Council.

The Press has obtained 26 internal reports previously not made public, and council bosses have pledged to end similar secrecy in the future.

The papers, obtained through Freedom of Information (FOI) laws, cover topics from routine school audits to reviews of services for vulnerable older people, health and safety, and information security, and even the sale of scrap metal from Hazel Court recycling centre.

Now council officials have confirmed that in future, reports like this will be published, with redactions, when they are presented to a council committee.

 

Which schools get the most money spent on them? < Surrey Comet

SURREY County Council has spent almost £30 million in two years maintaining school buildings in the county – and a trio of East Surrey schools were atop last year’s bill.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed the five most expensive schools for the council to maintain in each of the last two financial years.

In the year 2013/14, the council spent £11,276,200 on building-related maintenance for all schools and de Stafford School in Caterham, Reigate Priory School and Merstham Primary School were among the five most expensive.

The most expensive school was King’s College, in Guildford, which cost the council £667,220 in the last financial year.

Why police get called to GP surgeries < Warrington Guardian

VIOLENCE, harassment and adults fighting are just some of the incidents police were called to at the town’s surgeries and Warrington Hospital in the past 12 months.

A Warrington Guardian Freedom of Information request found officers had been called 72 times to GP practices across the town in the last three years.

During the same period, Cheshire Police were called to Warrington Hospital on Lovely Lane more than 1,600 times however a large proportion of those calls were due to sudden deaths where the police are alerted to ensure there are no suspicious circumstances.

How close to flood defences come to being breeched? < Eastern Daily Press

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The 12 days of local Pressmasness: 6 criminal Grannies

pressmaness

If Christmas is all about giving, then it’s only right we celebrate the Freedom of Information request which keeps on giving – the one about old people and the crimes they first commit.

It’s a bit like The Snowman, or Only Fools and Horses – a repeat which can be guaranteed to turn up at Christmas, but remains compelling all the same.

I first read a story about criminal pensioners – revealed using FOI – in the Bristol Post back in 2009, and they’ve appeared almost everywhere since.

Criminal OAPs were served up as Christmas stories in several places this year.

In Gloucestershire, the Citizen reported that theft was the most common crime pensioners were arrested for, while the Hertfordshire Mercury reported pensioners cultivating cannabis and offending public decency.

As it’s Christmas, and Channel 4 seems to be full of nothing but best of compilation lists, here are six of the best OAPs uncovered thanks to FOI:

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FOI FRIDAY: Shop burglaries, looked after children a long way from home, army redundancies and homeless in B&Bs

FOIFRIDAYLOGO‘Looked after’ children housed in different counties < < < Bury Free Press

More than 130 looked after children in Suffolk are being placed outside the county as the demand for placements increases.

Following a Freedom of Information request, the Bury Free Press can reveal that upto the end of February 135 out of the county’s 735 looked after children were homed outside the local authority boundary.

This compares with 155 out of 780 last year, 145 out of 785 in 2010/11 and 150 out of 775 in 2009/10. Children are currently placed in counties such as Kent, Lincolnshire, Shropshire, London, Rutland, Bath, Hampshire, Bradford Metropolitan District, Southend on Sea and West Berkshire.

Child criminals in Nottingham < < < Nottingham Evening Post

POLICE have arrested children as young as eight on suspicion of burglary and robbery.

Notts officers last year made 20 arrests of primary school-age children involving a burglary and ten children aged 11 or under were arrested for robbery.

Figures given to the Post under the Freedom of Information Act show that overall 44 children aged 11 or under were arrested in 2012 – down from 100 two years earlier.

As well as robberies and burglaries, other crimes included theft, assault and criminal damage. Some arrests were even made in connection with rapes, drug possession and having an offensive weapon.

Burglaries in shops < < < Bradford Telegraph and Argus

City centre traders have voiced frustration after figures obtained by the Telegraph & Argus revealed that only 32 people have been convicted following investigations into 684 burglaries of retail and commercial premises in the last year.

Business bosses have called for more police presence to deter burglars after seeing the outcome of a Freedom of Information request regarding non-house burglaries in the Bradford south division, which covers the city centre and suburbs, from October, 2011, to September, 2012.

Police made 89 arrests in relation to the crimes recorded during that period, and 32 people were convicted, although police pointed out that some of those criminals could have been found guilty of several of the offences.

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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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FOI FRIDAY: Big benefit claims, football ground safety, spending on temps and how much headteachers earn

 

1. School-based hate crimes investigated by the police < < < Western Morning News

Sure, we’ve seen FOI requests about the number of reports of racism recorded by schools or local authorities – but this is the first time I’ve seen a figure for the number of times police have been called in to investigate racism in schools. That’s what the Western Morning News uncovered.

2. Council spending at the footie < < < Liverpool ECHO

Wirral Council has spent more than £1m sponsoring football team Tranmere Rovers over the last decade, according to information released under Freedom of Information laws to the Liverpool Echo. I suspect a lot of councils have spent a fair bit over the years – Lancashire County Council’s logo has been almost ever-present at Preston North End – but I suppose it depends on what the money was spent on which makes or breaks the story.

3. Council spending on temps doubles < < < East Anglian Daily Times

Hmmm. A one-off or something symptomatic of redundancies in local government? The EADT reports how spending on temps has doubled at one local council in the last year.

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FOI FRIDAY: Mice at Manchester United, appealing students, cabbie grumbles and turning the lights off

Mice raid Manchester United < < < Manchester Evening News

I love this FOI. Simple, but effective – although the sports editor might not thank you

Manchester United had to deal with a mice infestation at Old Trafford, the M.E.N. can reveal. The outbreak was one of a number of hygiene and safety issues flagged up by council officials when they inspected the stadium restaurant, the Red Cafe and the staff canteen, last July. The Red Cafe was given the all-clear but the staff canteen in the West Stand was found to have a mouse infestation.

The council report was obtained by the M.E.N. under Freedom of Information laws. We asked for the results of the most recent hygiene inspections carried out at both Old Trafford and Manchester City’s ground, the Etihad Stadium

The wasted hours of ambulances at hospitals < < < Aldershot News and Mail

This data used to be released regularly – now FOI is required

MORE than 850 hours was lost through ambulance delays at Frimley Park Hospital in the first three months of the year.

Figures obtained by the News & Mail using the Freedom of Information Act show more than 863 hours were lost in turnaround times for ambulances serving the hospital’s A&E department between January and March.

The statistics only include the number of hours lost which went over the trust’s turnaround target of 30 minutes.

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FOI Friday: Dirty hospitals, re-employed redundant council workers, lost dogs and drug warrants

A fortnightly round-up of FOI-based stories which could be followed up anywhere…

The secret past of would-be teachers < < < Sunday Sun

POSSESSING explosives, being drunk while in charge of a child, death by reckless driving and indecent assault on a girl . . these are just some of the serious criminal convictions would-be teachers in the North have under their belt.

Hundreds of potential teachers have been applying for classroom positions across the region despite holding a range of serious criminal convictions, the Sunday Sun can reveal.

Information released by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), after the Sunday Sun made a Freedom of Information Act request, revealed the scale of convictions clocked up by teachers applying for positions in the North.

Childhood drugs overdoses < < < Sunderland Echo

A SIX-YEAR-OLD was rushed to Sunderland Royal Hospital after overdosing on antidepressants.

The shocking revelation comes as new figures show three people a day are admitted to the city’s hospital after taking a drug overdose.

A total of 2,999 people were taken to A&E after overdosing on prescribed or non-prescribed medicine and drugs from December 2008 to December 2011.

The youngest was a six-year-old. A further five 12-year-olds were admitted after overdosing on painkillers, penicillin and anti-inflammatory drugs.

More council compensation claims < < < Sunday Mercury

A COUNCIL grave digger has been awarded £65,000 compensation – after he fell into a burial plot he was preparing.

The cemetery worker received the payout from Birmingham City Council (BCC) after he hurt his right knee in the incident.

He is one of several local authority employees who have claimed compensation after being injured at work.

Click here to find out more!In another case a school worker was handed £100,000 after slipping on food in a dinner hall.
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FOI Friday: Hospital parking, strange police phone calls, cheating students and criminals applying to work in schools

Toilet seats and compensation < < < Birmingham Mail

A WORKER sued Birmingham City Council and won £1,750 after a toilet seat collapsed causing him injuries, it has emerged.

The man was one of 274 successful claims in the last five years leaving taxpayers with a bill of almost £5 million.

Trips, exposure to deadly asbestos and problems with training were behind some of the most costly compensation payouts by the city council last year, the Birmingham Mail can reveal.

The cost of defending claims by a police force < Carlisle Times and Star

Cumbria Constabulary has paid out almost £50,000 in five years defending itself against employees who made claims of racism, sexism and unlawful deduction of wages.

The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show 12 employees made claims against the force between 2008 and 2011.

Of these cases, Cumbria Constabulary lost three following an employment tribunal, won three and settled five without the need for an employment tribunal.

Bomb alerts in a city < < < Bradford Telegraph and Argus

Bomb experts carried out a controlled explosion after a smoke grenade was found in a Bradford alleyway in the 15th Army call-out to the city in three years.

Statistics from the Ministry of Defence released to the Telegraph & Argus under the Freedom of Information Act show the Catterick-based Army bomb disposal unit had been deployed to 14 other reports of suspicious packages, bomb hoaxes and improvised explosive devices in the district before the latest incident on Monday night.

Violent criminals apply to work in schools < < < Sunderland Echo

VIOLENT thugs, benefit fraudsters, drink drivers, drug users and a witness who lied under oath.

These are just some of the people who have applied to teach your children.

Today the Echo reveals the long list of convictions held by people applying to work with children in Sunderland’s schools.

The criminal offences were discovered when the past of applicants was scrutinised by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).

A Freedom of Information Act request found that 72 applications made in the city in the last two years were flagged up by the checking process, which unearthed 180 previous convictions.

A parking ticket issued every five minutes < < < Western Morning News

Motorists in Cornwall are being punished with parking tickets once every five minutes, the Western Morning News has discovered.

Parking officers handed out more than 36,000 tickets across the county in the past year, with drivers paying out more than £1.5 million in fi1nes.

Student plagerism on the rise < < < Nottingham Post

THE number of university students in Nottingham getting caught for cheating in coursework is on the rise.

In the past year 340 students in the city have been caught for plagiarism – almost 100 more than last year.

According to figures obtained by the Post, through a Freedom of Information request, the number of students found guilty of plagiarism at Nottingham Trent University has more than doubled, shooting up from 94 students in 2009/10 to 211 students 2010/11.

Crazy calls made to police < < < Sunday Sun

FROM vampire chases and alien attacks, to UFO and zombie sightings… these are just some of the spooky calls taken by North police forces.

Dozens of members of the public believe they have had a brush with the supernatural over the last five years.

The Sunday Sun can reveal the wacky calls received by forces in the region after a Freedom of Information Act request unearthed some ghostly goings-on.

Since 2007 more than 80 calls in relation to UFOs, aliens, zombies, vampires, ghosts and witches have been made to police by concerned members of the public.

Police officers who quit while conduct probed < < < Manchester Evening News

A total of 26 officers resigned from Greater Manchester Police over 12 months after investigations were launched into their conduct, the M.E.N. can reveal.
Details released through Freedom of Information show the public complained 1,374 times about GMP officers and staff in 2010.
This figure was a significant drop on the 2009 figures – when 2,167 complaints were made. In the vast majority of the 2010 cases, officers were cleared or the complaints were resolved through mediation.

CAMPAIGNERS have demanded an end to hospital parking charges for seriously ill patients after a Sunday Sun investigation revealed £8m was raked in by health trusts last year.

A probe has revealed nine NHS trusts in the region raised a whopping £8,287,429 in parking fees – that’s up £106,000 on the previous year.

But many scrap all charges in some special cases, making parking free or discounted for cancer and renal patients and long-stay relatives.

Parking fines rebooted < < < The Birmingham Post

The ‘please name your top 20 streets for parking fines’ story is almost as old as the Freedom of Information Act itself but put in the context of tough economic times for businesses, it is perhaps more relevant than ever. To that end, the Birmingham Post got hold of Birmingham’s top 20 list – with one small street raking in almost £100,000.

FOI Friday: Bad living conditions, school repair backlogs, teen drug dealers and the return of schoolyard compo

 

Revealing the findings of ‘neighbourhood renewal assessments’ – Stoke Sentinel

Here’s one which could run and run across the country. The Stoke Sentinel reports on the findings of a council ‘neighbourhood renewal assessment’ – the likes of which are carried out by councils all over the place.

A NEW report has painted a sobering picture of just how bad living conditions have become in the Portland Street area.

The report, released under the Freedom of Information Act, shows how much conditions have deteriorated at some of the houses.

It is based on surveys carried out at 274 properties, a mixture of private rented and owner-occupied homes, as part of the council’s Neighbourhood Renewal Assessment.

Repairs backlogs at schools – Coventry Telegraph

WARWICKSHIRE schools have a staggering £83 million backlog of repairs.

Warwickshire County Council bosses estimated the cost of getting all the county’s schools up to a reasonable standard of repair.

The figures were uncovered by the Telegraph under the Freedom of Information Act.

The cost of clearing up after police warrants – South Wales Evening Post

I think there’s a better story in here other than the one the South Wales Evening Post has gone with. It reports on the £5k in compensation the police has paid out for repairs to properties which were damaged during ‘negative warrants’ – ie warrants which were executed but didn’t lead to an arrest or seizure of goods. That’s a good story – but looking at the breakdown of negative v positive warrants, almost half were negative. A better story?

120 ‘foreign objects’ removed from patients in Lincolnshire – Boston Standard

Here’s a curious story. FOI led to the Boston Standard to find out that 120 people had ‘foreign bodies’ removed from them in hospital, yet the hospital couldn’t say what those objects were. The Standard used information from elsewhere in the country to talk about the sorts of objects which could be involved.

Teenage drug dealers – Teesside Evening Gazette

SUSPECTED child drug dealers as young as 15 were among those arrested on Teesside, new figures have revealed.

Officers from Cleveland Police arrested 17 suspected child drug dealers last year.

Five were girls held over claims they were dealing cannabis, and six of the boys, including two 15-year-olds, were risking lengthy prison sentences after allegedly dealing in Class A drugs.

The findings were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Escapes from mental health units – Wigan Evening Post

10% of people admitted to mental health units in Wigan escape, according to the Wigan Evening Post.

Cost of overseas patients not paying up – Scarborough Evening News

This story stands out more because of the level of detail released than anything else:

SCARBOROUGH’S NHS Trust is owed more than £30,000 in hospital bills, racked up by overseas patients not entitled to free treatment.

The figures, obtained via a Freedom of Information request to Scarborough and North East Yorkshire Healthcare NHS Trust, show that since February 2009, £33,229.41 has either been written off or is currently being chased by the Trust.

The numbers include £10,297 that the trust is still chasing from a Syrian patient who underwent treatment in May 2010.

The highest amount written off was for £5,701, owed to them from a Thai patient who underwent treatment in August and September of 2009.

The books and CDs you aren’t borrowing from the library – Sunday Sun

Tomes such as Old Scottish Clockmakers 1453-1850 and Agrarian History of England and Wales Volume 5 have lined library shelves untouched for decades.

But surprisingly some popular names were also on our list, compiled from Freedom of Information requests by the Sunday Sun.

When it comes to music, in Northumberland, four copies of Coldplay’s album X&Y were only borrowed once last year, the same number as The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.

The return of an old favourite: Schoolyard payouts – Leicester Mercury

A schoolgirl who was burnt when baked beans were spilled on her could be in line for a council pay-out of up to £12,000.

The hot food was spilled on the youngster’s neck at a county council-run school. The authority has now set aside thousands of pounds to cover potential compensation and legal costs.

The incident is one of 63 compensation claims made for injuries sustained at county schools during the past four years, according to new figures. But, of the 29 cases dealt with to date, just five have resulted in a compensation pay-out.

The cost of  council sick pay – Birmingham Post

Birmingham City Council spent £35 million on sick pay for staff last year.

And new figures have revealed employees in some departments are taking more than double the national average of days off ill.

The authority spent £34,856,713 on sick pay between January and December last year, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The council did not reveal the bill for paying agency staff to cover absences, meaning the total cost will be even higher.

FOIFRIDAYLOGO

FOI Friday

1. Cheating Students – Northampton Chronicle

INCIDENTS of plagiarism by students at the University of Northampton in exam coursework have increased by 65 per cent in the past four years.

Latest figures show that 391 students were found guilty of ‘academic misconduct’ which primarily relates to deliberate or unintentional cases of copying other people’s work.

The statistics, available from a Freedom of Information request, show there were 237 incidents of academic misconduct in 2006/7, 245 in 2007/8, 284 in 2008/9 and 391 in 2009/10.

2. Council bosses take redundancy – and return as consultants – Merton Guardian

Town hall bosses have “serious questions to answer” after Merton’s cash-strapped council spent thousands of pounds on redundancy payouts to senior employees, only to rehire them as highly-paid consultants.

Since May 2010, five so-called ‘boomerang bosses’ have found jobs back at Merton Council after £178,000 was spent laying them off.

A series of emails, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, show that a week before chief executive Ged Curran authorised her job offer, the council’s head of human resources, Dean Shoesmith, gave Ms Williams instructions on how to become a consultant.

3. 72 benefit cheats in Lincolnshire caught claiming more than £320k – Louth Target

MORE than £320,000 in benefits has been fraudulently claimed in East Lindsey in the last nine months.

In total, 72 benefit cheats were caught by the district council during that period with the biggest fraudster, from Alford, being successfully prosecuted for claiming £58,325 too much for failing to declare a partner living in the household.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that 15 people were brought before the courts for the offences in 2009/10 compared to 30 in 2010/11.

However East Lindsey District Council, who brought the prosecutions, says the figures don’t necessarily mean fraud is on the increase.

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