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.

4. Unspent parks cash revealed – Sunderland Echo

AN Echo investigation has revealed that more than £680,000 for play park improvements remain unspent despite some of the facilities becoming rundown, derelict and “dangerous”.

The money has been building up since 2005. All of it has been received through deals the council has reached. These Section 106 arrangements are where money is given to a council to spend on improving an area from developers.

The information, which was obtained by the Echo through a Freedom of Information Act request, also revealed that the council is waiting to collect more than £2.5million from similar agreements.

5. Police take 60,000 sick days- Reading Post

Thames Valley Police officers and staff took a total of more than 60,000 days off sick last year, with muscle strains, broken bones and psychological problems among the main causes.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request revealed officers and staff – who number 8,054, – took 61,374 days off because of illness or injury between April 2010 and March 2011.

6. The cost of gyspy clean ups – Lancashire Telegraph

Councils have spent almost £40,000 removing and cleaning up after travellers in the past four years.

The money includes that spent on legal fees to remove travellers from illegal encampments, as well as the cost of clearing, and safeguarding, sites after their departure.

The figures, released to the Lancashire Telegraph following a Freedom of Information Act request, show Burnley Council’s costs related to removal of travellers from local authority land stood at £7,433.47 in 2008, £9,877.43 in 2009, £10,109.96 in 2010, and £3,539.90 last year.

7. The council which banned A-boards after complaints, which FOI revealed never existed – Grimsby Telegraph

A PUB manager has expressed anger over a council crackdown on unlicensed A-boards after it was revealed that only six reports – and no official complaints – have been made.

As reported, North East Lincolnshire Council announced a crackdown on advertising boards, describing them as “clutter” in letters to five Grimsby businesses in September last year.

NELC said it was a response to “complaints” about the boards placed on footpaths.

However, a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request has since revealed that the council received no official complaints and only six reports of unlicensed A-boards.

8. More than 600 homeless in north east Wales in just eight months – Daily Post

MORE than 600 families in north east Wales declared themselves homeless in the last eight months – but there are only enough empty council properties to house just over half of them.

Flintshire councillors are calling for the authority to revamp private homes, and rent them to those families.

A Freedom of Information request revealed 507 people, including families, couples and those living alone, have presented themselves as homeless to Wrexham Council since April this year, as well as 73 in Flintshire and 82 in Denbighshire.

9. Books lost by universities – Southampton Echo

THEY are the vital tools for studying students, but a Hampshire university has admitted it has lost track of thousands of its library books.

Southampton Solent University doesn’t know where 6,126 books are, which is the ninth-highest number of any higher education institution in the country.

The figure has been released as part of a response to a Freedom of Information request that has found universities around the country have raised nearly £50m in the last six years by fining students for overdue library books.

10. Council spending on private detectives – Sunday Sun

A SPENDING probe is under way at a North council after the Sunday Sun uncovered how private detectives have earned more than £35,000 for carrying out its work.

Our investigation has revealed Middlesbrough forked out £35,609 over four years to sleuths – that’s the highest amount paid out by any of the region’s authorities.

The council claims the work of the private investigators could have potentially saved taxpayers’ cash because – among other jobs – they were employed to snoop on folk planning to sue the council.

Using Freedom of Information laws, we learned other North councils have also hired their services, to carry out surveillance on folk suing authorities, serve legal papers and even for surveillance operations in child protection cases.

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