FOI Friday: Strange weapons, cost of a big fire, prison menus and revisiting attacks at hospitals

Newcastle Evening Chronicle: Reports compiled about big fire show concerns over safety equipment

EFFORTS to fight a giant blaze were hit by concerns over safety equipment.

Internal fire service documents seen by the Chronicle reveal the fire caused damage to the neck straps on firefighters’ breathing masks that did not meet required standards.

The fault was raised in a report compiled by chiefs and an investigation was recommended.

The documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, also reveal how the cost of the operation exceeded £50,000.

A VIOLIN case, a potato peeler and a television are among a haul of unusual weapons seized on Edinburgh’s streets, it emerged today.

Details released under the Freedom of Information Act show police have confiscated hundreds of unusual items which have been used in attacks or deemed offensive weapons.

The haul also includes a pizza shovel, a quill pen and a pool ball in a sock.

Newcastle Journal: £4million seized back from criminals in North East

MORE than £4m was seized from North East criminals in just two years as police used court powers to strip them of their ill-gotten gains.

Criminals on Tyneside and in Northumberland paid back nearly £700,000 in cash while, following examinations by forensic accountants, fraudsters have also had to pay nearly £2.5m to cover the cost of their assets.

Financial investigators calculated the true value of their benefits to determine exactly what they owed from their businesses.

Manchester Evening News: Special menus in prison

Jamaican chicken, lamb passanda and cod provencal are among the meals being served up inside Greater Manchester’s prisons.

Menus obtained by the M.E.N. from six of the region’s jails show the huge variety of dishes – from the plain to the exotic – being cooked up by chefs with budgets of just 66p per prisoner per meal. While inmates inside Styal women’s prison, in Cheshire, have been treated to adventurous fish dishes and gateaux – offenders elsewhere have had to make do with jumbo sausage, corned beef, battered fish and cheese pasties.

The M.E.N. used Freedom of Information laws to obtain copies of the Easter Sunday, Royal Wedding and Christmas menus from Manchester’s Strangeways jail, Styal, HMP Risley in Warrington, Thorn Cross Young Offenders Institute in Warrington, Buckley Hall prison in Rochdale, and Hindley YOI in Wigan.

Halesowen News: The number of bins private contractors for a council fail to collect each month

Figures just for July and August obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal the company failed to collect 5.452 bins and recycling boxes.

The most recent figures for the week starting August 22 show a marked improvement with just 64 missed compared to 428 the week before.

Press Association: Council payouts for injuries on school trips

Two Scottish councils have paid out thousands of pounds in compensation for pupils injured on school trips, according to new figures.

Highland Council paid out the most during the two financial years April 2009 to March 2011, with £2,363.16 and £3,950.45 forked out respectively.

Edinburgh City Council paid out £404.19 for 2009/10 and £194.79 for 2010/11. The council, which had nine successful claims against it during the period, had one claim in 2010/11 still outstanding.

South Wales Echo: High rates of speed camera tickets being overturned

A SPEED camera on one of Wales’ busiest roads generated at least £40,000 in a year, new figures have revealed.

The fixed camera, on Cardiff’s North Road, caught nearly 1,400 speeding motorists during a 12-month period, of which 670 paid a minimum £60 fine.

The news comes as data released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed a third of motorists issued with tickets for breaking the speed limit had them cancelled. The statistics also revealed less than half of fines sent out to drivers are actually paid.

SENIOR officers at Hull City Council spent more than £21,000 on foreign trips, meals and flowers using the authority’s credit cards last year.

The total included almost £1,000 for hotel accommodation as chief executive Nicola Yates attended a “leadership event” in America.

The figures were released to the Mail following a number of requests under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act.

EVERY day, four NHS hospital workers in our region are physically or verbally attacked while doing their jobs, the Journal can reveal.

Thousands of assaults on staff have been recorded over the last two years.

Workers have been assaulted with an array of deadly weapons including scissors and knives.

Patients have also used makeshift weapons such as a drip stand, a zimmer frame and a wet floor sign to attack those caring for them, information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveals.

Local authorities are seeing cuts to planning departments which mean they may not have enough resources to handle the Government’s reforms to the system, it has been claimed.

Figures requested by the National Trust, which is campaigning against the planning reforms over fears they could lead to a return to damaging development, suggest the majority of councils have cut their planning departments since 2008.

Almost two thirds (64%) of the 122 councils who have responded to the Freedom of Information requests said that their planning budget had shrunk since 2008, with £3.5 million less being spent across the councils polled.

The number of planning applications submitted has fallen since 2008, largely due to the recession.

A PUBLIC car park has netted a Midland council more than £1.5 million in a year.

Birmingham’s Livery Street multi-storey serves Snow Hill train station and the city’s business district.

And in the last financial year it made the city council a whopping £1,578,017.

The figures were obtained using the Freedom of Information Act and cover every car park and metered on-street zone owned by the council.

There are big variations in the amount councils in the north-east of England and Cumbria spend with local companies, the Politics Show has found.

Using Freedom of Information requests, it asked about contracts awarded to companies over the last two years.

Hartlepool placed 62% of business with North East firms. In Newcastle and Northumberland it was 52%

But in some areas such as Carlisle and Redcar and Cleveland, there was a drop in local contracts awarded.

Carlisle City Council’s figure for Cumbrian contracts fell from 46% in 2009/10 to 31% in 2010/11 while Middlesbrough’s North East contracts dropped from 55% to 46%.

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