FOI Friday: Custard spills, charity finances, twocking – and an important breakthrough

stocksRegional Development Agency assets

An important precedent has hopefully been set this week by the Birmingham Post when it comes to FOI. Regional Development Agencies were a relatively late addition to FOI coverage, and since their demise was announced, some have been reluctant to reveal how much they are selling their assets for.

The Birmingham Post this week revealed that Birmingham’s Stock Exchange, set up by Advantage West Midlands in 2007, has been sold for £1. In three years, it has swallowed £3million of public cash.

AWM at first refused to say how much it had been sold for, arguing it was commercially sensitive. The Post has managed to argue otherwie, and AWM changed its mind.

The front page of the Birmingham Post


Recession impact on charities

According to the Warrington Guardian, a third of charities in the town are in the red after grants have been cut and recession hit donations. Reporter Hannah Bargery used FOI to ask the Charities Commission for details about charities in the Warrington borough. The figures she got back revealed that of the 389 registered charities in Warrington, 123 spent more than they received last year.

Students suing schools

You may well have seen this story in the nationals this week but it began life as Monday’s splash in the Liverpool ECHO. FOI was used to ask councils for details of cases where pupils had brought compensation claims against schools. One pupil received £750 for being splashed with custard (presumably at lunchtime) while another got £6k for falling off a chair.

Who’d be a traffic warden?

The Southport Visiter this week reports on the attacks against traffic wardens reported to Sefton Council. They include one case where a motorist hit a traffic warden with a brick. In another case, an attendant had leg injurie after he chased a cyclist who had stolen his hat. We’ve seen lots of ‘number of attacks’ stories, but this example shows how much better a story can be where there is some more information to go with the numbers.

Cars seized by the council

We’ve seen many stories based on the number of parking tickets issued, but what about the number of cars impounded as a result of breaking parking regulations? Some councils may not do it all, but in Edinburgh they do – and the Edinburgh Evening News reports a sharp rise in the number of cars impounded.

A rise in web sex grooming

Perhaps there is no surprise here, but the number of child exploitation cases reported to police has risen dramatically in the last three years, according to the Lancashire Evening Post. In 2008, there were 525 referrals, but last year that figure had rised to 1,341. Police blame the internet for many of the cases.

An unusual student debt

Students might be struggling with debt, but in Coventry they aren’t helping themselves when it comes to avoiding non-essential extras – like library fines. According to the Coventry Telegraph, students have forked out £128,000 in overdue fees in the last year.

Twocking

For one awful moment, I thought I’d found another word created to be a reference to Twitter. It’s not, I’ve learnt. Twocking is the stealing of cars by youngsters. And a girl of 14 is the youngest to be arrested in Teeeside for the offence, according to the Teesside Evening Gazette. FOI data reveals there were 684 juvenile car crime arrests made in 2009 and 2010.

Cold cases

The Bristol Evening Post used FOI to ask how many cold case crimes had been solved in the past few years and it appears Avon and Somsert Police is doing more than ever before – with six times as many cold cases being solved in 2010 than in 2006. The request also revealed the types of offences being solved.

A&E closures

How are accident and emergency departments coping? In some areas, the number of casualty departments has reduced, while in others changes in how you book GP appointments has led to more people going straight to A&E. The Belfast Telegraph used FOI to find out how many times casualty departments were forced to divert people elsewhere over a 12 month period, meaning only the most life-threatening cases arriving by ambulance would be admitted. One hospital had to do that 268 times in a year.

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