FOI Friday: Illegal immigrants, councils using dating sites, suspended staff and the long cost of PFI

FOIFRIDAYLOGOHow many miles of roadworks in your area? < < < In Cumbria

MOTORISTS in Cumbria face around 600 miles of roadworks every year.

Figures obtained in a Freedom of Information response showed that, at the end of January, there were 217 miles of roadworks to be completed by the end of this month.

The figures, from the county council, also revealed there were a total of 645 miles of roadworks due to be completed during 2012/13 – down on the 937 in the previous year

Stressed police on the rise < < < East Anglian Daily Times

THE number of days stressed police officers have taken off sick has doubled to more than 9,000 in the past three years, new figures have revealed.

The statistics, released by Essex Police following a Freedom of Information request, reflect the number of stress-related absences within the constabulary since 2010.

Officers took 9,139 days, including weekends and rest days, off due to stress last year – a sharp rise on the 4,594 sick days recorded in 2010.

£66,00 spent on suspended council staff < < < Harrow Times

Harrow East MP Bob Blackman says it is “utterly ridiculous” that Harrow Borough Council has spent more than £660,000 over the past two years paying suspended staff not to work.

Figures obtained in a Freedom of Information request from Mr Blackman show the council has paid 97 suspended members of staff between April 2009 and February 2012.

The Conservative MP accused the council of being “bad value for money” despite cutting services and raising council tax.

The council staff not on the payroll < < < Waltham Forest Guardian

More than 140 people were employed on potentially tax-avoiding “off payroll” contracts for Waltham Forest Council last year, it has emerged.

Figures obtained using the Freedom of Information act show 144 staff were on contracts outside of normal arrangements, ranging from £47 to £226,334, in 2012.

Such measures, which are legal, can mean full tax is sidestepped by employees being technically paid through a company instead.

A council spokesman said the majority of the 144 were on short-term contracts for small pieces of work, such as plumbing.

Things being stolen from hospital < < < Norwich Evening News

Hospitals in Norfolk experienced a reduction in thefts, according to figures from a Freedom of Information request.

New figures show that 20 thefts took place at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital last year, compared to 39 thefts at the Colney site in 2011. The hospital declined to say what items were stolen.

At the James Paget University Hospital, only eight thefts were recorded at the Gorleston site, compared to eight in 2011 and 16 in 2010. Items including shoes, a flatscreen television, lead roofing, money and clothing were taken from the hospital.

The dating websites popular with a council’s staff in work hours < < < Surrey Comet

Specialist dating websites, for women seeking women and women seeking rich boyfriends, are among the most popular internet pages accessed by council staff at their work computers.

A Freedom of Information request, by, has revealed the 500 most-visited internet pages by Merton Council employees since November 2012 include dating websites, fashion retailers and toy shops.

The website – which promises to “deliver a higher grade of person” for women seeking wealthier men – was the 139th most visited, while lesbian dating website featured at 207.

The cost of spending on locum doctors < < < Norwich Evening News

A mental health trust, which is looking to cut 500 jobs, spent more than £3m on locum doctors last year, according to new figures.

Critics of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust’s plan to reduce front-line staff numbers as part of a restructure yesterday described the sum spent on temporary doctors as “mind-boggling”.

Figures from a Freedom of Information request reveal that the NHS trust spent £3.2m on locum doctors in 2012.

Firms caught employing illegal immigrants < < < Sunday Mercury

Hundreds of rogue Midland firms have been fined a whopping £3 million for employing illegal immigrants over the last three years.

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has penalised 328 companies for flouting the law and using cheap foreign labour from countries including India, Nigeria and Afghanistan.

The majority of the companies snared for hiring illegal immigrants were fast food restaurants or hand car washes.

But some of the UK’s best known firms – including Domino’s Pizza and franchised petrol stations selling BP fuel – were also caught out during UKBA checks.

The figures, uncovered by the Sunday Mercury using the Freedom of Information Act, show 328 firms in the East and West Midlands were fined a total of £2,958,750 between 2010 and 2012.

Investigating the on-going cost of PFI < < < Jesmond Local

JesmondLocal has discovered that large amounts of money are still being paid by Newcastle City Council each year for the City Library, despite plans to cut 10 community libraries in the area – including Jesmond’s.

We submitted a Freedom of Information request to the City Council, asking it to detail the funding of the City Library, which opened via a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) in 2009. PFIs were introduced in 1992 as a way of securing private funding for public services.

Photograph of Central Library by Peter McDermott and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons

The FoI request submitted by JesmondLocal reveals that Newcastle City Council paid £3,355,728.25 to the City Library’s developer in 2011-12, of which £3,200,149 was paid for by a grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. This made the net cost of the City Library building for the Council that year £155,579.25.

This agreement with the developers of the building will last until March 2034.

Whilst the PFI payments are part of a contract and therefore cannot stop, the annual amount revealed in the FoI request is more than the stated amount of £130,000 per year it would cost to keep Jesmond Library open.


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