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.

Students get lucky over marks < < < Western Mail

A new FOI request to hit universities with… 

Almost half of all appeals launched by Welsh university students against their exam and coursework grades are successful, new figures suggest.

Of the thousands of students who complained against academic decisions at universities in Wales in the past two years, 45% were fully or partially upheld on appeal.

A total of 2,233 appeals were made by students between 2009-10 and 2010-11, with 1,005 being successful. Many students were subsequently allowed to repeat exams and coursework, while others had their marks or grades increased.

Turning the lights off in Yorkshire < < < Yorkshire Post

I suspect this is this week’s ‘here’s one that could run and run’ FOI request

MORE than 40,000 street lights are set to be switched off at night in Yorkshire plunging parts of the county into darkness as cash-strapped councils look to save money.

Fears were raised last night that the decision to immerse some rural and residential streets in an overnight blackout could increase the fear of crime and road accidents as well as posing a risk to public safety, and calls have been made for the Government to look at the impact.

A Yorkshire Post investigation has revealed four local authorities: Kirklees, North Yorkshire, Leeds and Rotherham have either backed plans to turn off lights part time or are considering such a move to cut energy bills.

Prisoner sues over sunburn < < < Belfast Telegraph

This FOI request demonstrates how a good FOI-based story combines a number of killer facts – in this case, the cost per week, the typical claim and the claim which will make most people say ‘you what?’

Almost £10,000 a week in compensation has been handed out to prison officers and inmates for injuries sustained in Northern Ireland’s jails.

The majority of the cash was paid following accidents, such as a fall, or for smoke inhalation during cell fires, according to Prison Service information.

And the Belfast Telegraph can reveal that one inmate lodged a compensation claim for sunburn after he climbed on to a roof in Maghaberry Prison on a hot day to stage a protest.

80% of crimes unsolved < < < Doreset Echo

A good example of FOI cutting through spin. 80% seems a lot doesn’t it?

ALMOST 80 per cent of crime in Dorset is unsolved and there are fears this could rise due to cuts in police numbers.

Information obtained by the Echo shows 78 per cent of crimes reported to Dorset Police last year were ‘undetected’, meaning no one was charged or prosecuted.

Last year 3,527 of 9,137 violent crimes and 155 of 603 sexual offences were solved.

100 languages in schools < < < Crawley Observer

A good example of the devil being in the detail – 100 languages is much more fascinating when you can name the languages…

ONE hundred different languages are spoken by children at Crawley primary schools.

Some 27 per cent of primary school pupils in Crawley speak English as an additional language.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showed 100 different mother tongues were represented in Crawley primary schools including Zulu, Icelandic and Krio (West Africa).

Landlord complaints rise < < < Bradford Telegraph and Argus

Not all press releases based on FOI are naff…

Bradford Council received the biggest rise in complaints against private landlords in the county in the last decade, it has been revealed.

Research by residential letting specialists Linley & Simpson, which has a base in Ilkley, shows the number of complaints investigated rocketed from 263 in 2000 to more than 1,313, in 2010.

A total of 1,130 of the complaints were against individual property owners and 183 against letting agents.

A Freedom of Information request by the letting specialists has revealed prosecutions and legal notices across Yorkshire are also at an all-time high, with some landlords being left out of pocket to the tune of more than £20,000 after being convicted of serious breaches of the law which were judged to put their tenants’ lives at risk.

Cabbies facing complaints < < < Sunday Sun

A good example of how the failure of some councils to respond to an FOI won’t kill the story – but could actually enhance it…

THOUSANDS of complaints have been made against North cabbies . . with more than a dozen taken off the road for their behaviour.

A whopping 1,493 complaints were made to North councils in the last two years – yet only 160 faced punishments.

And the figure will in reality be much higher – Northumberland Council couldn’t give us figures, and Durham could only supply us with statistics for 2011.

Stress illness rises at ambulance service < < < Sunday Sun

Ah, another ‘stressed public sector story?’ Maybe, but the fact that stress absence is rising by 31% is what makes this story – and therefore proves why it’s worth comparing year-on-year data in some depth…

EMERGENCY service workers left bosses with an £8m bill last year after taking the equivalent of 369 years in sick leave . . . including a 31% increase in stress-related absence, the Sunday Sun can reveal.

And a fifth of that – a massive 27,053 days – accounted for firefighters, police officers and ambulance service workers needing time off suffering from stress, anxiety and depression.

In the week that 20,000 off-duty police officers took to the streets in protest at proposed cuts, we conducted a special investigation to find out just how much stress leave the North’s emergency services have totted up.

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