FOI FRIDAY: Unpaid dinner money, pothole costs, Border Agency fines and tots attacking teachers

FOIFRIDAYLOGO1. Tots attacking Teachers – Clydebank Post

A new twist on the story about teachers being hit by youngsters:

NURSERY staff in West Dunbartonshire have been subjected to 14 violent or physical attacks by pre-school tots – the highest figure recorded in the last five years.

Statistics obtained by the Clydebank Post under freedom of information legislation revealed that during the current term, up to the end of April, there have been 163 pupil-on-staff attacks across the entire school estate.

But while the figures relating to nurseries and special schools has jumped, the number of incidents reported in primary and secondary schools is at its lowest level for the same period.

The council points out the 14 pre-school incidents amount to only 0.6 per cent of the 2200 children attending its pre-school centres and insists it takes all matters of this kind “very seriously”.

2.Petrol station drive offs – Shropshire Star

I particularly liked the level of detail in this story – I’ve seen the ‘fuel thefts on the up’ story before, but the quotes from the petrol station managers really add context:

A Freedom of Information request made by the Shropshire Star showed that between January 1, 2012, and January 1, 2013, 102 drivers attempted to escape petrol forecourts without paying, an average of two a week.

Of those 102 offences, 12 were settled with a community resolution, four people had the crime taken into consideration with other charges and two people were charged.

Police were unable to confirm the punishment behind one of the convictions.

A West Mercia Police spokesman said: “During the period in question there were around 250 reports of people making off without payment from petrol stations in Shropshire.

“The large majority of these were found to be genuine errors where there was no intent to commit an offence and payment was made soon after.

3. Who would steal someone else’s dentures? – Ipswich Star

A set of dentures, someone’s lunch and a patient trolley are among the items stolen from Ipswich Hospital in the last five years.

A Freedom of Information request by The Star revealed that since 2009, 95 items have been reported stolen from the Heath Road trust.

Along with more traditional items – cash, wallets, laptops, mobile phones and handbags – items including a pair of dentures, somebody’s lunch, a patient trolley, tins of coffee and tea, and a desk fan were also pinched.

Hospital spokeswoman Jan Ingle said that in the last five years the number of incidents of theft had fallen.

“We are the size of a small town with around 8,000 people on site each day,” she said. “When we consider that and look at the number of thefts it is very reassuring to see that given the size of the hospital and how busy we are, the number of thefts are relatively small.

“But one theft is one too many, especially if it is from somebody who is poorly and vulnerable.”

4. How much does your council make from hiring out open spaces? – Glasgow Evening Times

This one looks like one which could run and run in other areas too. How much does a local council make from hiring out or renting out space it owns for commercial events?

GLASGOW has almost doubled the amount of cash it rakes in from hiring out the city’s public parks and squares in the last five years.

The council – increasingly under fire for commercialising public spaces – made just under £200,000 in 2012-13.

That is up from nearly £115,000 back in 2008-2009 as the local authority focuses strongly on events to drive tourism and prop up the city’s struggling retail sector.

City parks and public precincts, including George Square, host scores of commercial events every year as well as acting as outdoor billboards to sell everything from the British Army to soft drinks and mobile phones.

5. What questions get asked when applying for jobs? – Daily Post

This story is based on an FOI request from Plaid Cymru to universities in Wales, which asked for details of their equalities policies and the questions asked on application forms. Some surprising results – and an FOI which could run elsewhere too:

NEW staff offered jobs at a university face an “unnecessarily intrusive” barrage of questions about the state of their health, it is claimed today.

Successful applicants for post at Glyndwr University are asked up to 56 questions, including “have you ever made any attempt at self-harm?”

Other questions ask how often someone had over six drinks on one occasion; how much they smoke a day; what is their body mass; and what medication they take.

Those recruited for food handling jobs are asked: “do you bite your nails or skin from the nail bed?” and “if they had recurrent boils, septic disease or been abroad in the last 12 months?”.

6. Probing questions about school admissions – Slough Observer

Having never been to Slough for long enough to study its education system, I don’t know how much of an issue this story is, but I this FOI could yield interesting results in other areas: How many school places at popular schools go to local people?

THREE of Slough’s four grammar schools will have more new starters from outside than inside the borough in September – with one selecting six times as many students from outside the town.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request submitted by The Observer found Langley Grammar School, St Bernard’s Catholic Grammar School and Slough Grammar School have all awarded more places to students that live outside Slough.

Herschel Grammar was the only grammar school that offered more places to children in Slough.

Slough Grammar was by far the worst offender, offering 124 places to children outside Slough compared to just 21 inside, meaning 86% of the school’s new starters will come from outside Slough.

7.  How much are potholes costing? – Birmingham Mail

Here’s an interesting FOI – not just for the subject matter but also for the fact that Birmingham City Council appears to be doing what many authorities don’t – providing information on matters which the public would expect a council to talk about, even though it has a private contractor to do the work now. Good on them.

Birmingham roads contractor is working through more than 750 outstanding damages claims – potentially leaving it exposed to a big compensation bill.

Amey, the company responsible for maintaining the city’s network of roads and footpaths, has paid out £160,000 to resolve more than 220 claims over the past three years.

But another 776 remain outstanding, according to data revealed under the Freedom of Information Act.

8. Border agency fines – Wales Online

This FOI request is a classic database request – and one which should also generate results for others if you ask for businesses based in counties, towns or postcodes.

Hundreds of businesses in Wales have been fined a total of more than £2m over the past two years for employing illegal immigrants.

Many of the 260 businesses across Wales issued civil penalties by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in 2011 and 2012 were Indian and Chinese restaurants and takeaways.

But household names such as Domino’s Pizza were also fined, as well as outlets of convenience shop chains Lifestyle Express (nine stores), Nisa (five) Spar (four) and Costcutter (four).

The UKBA figures, uncovered following a Freedom of Information request, show how in 2011 fines totalling £691,500 were handed out to 100 firms in Wales.

9. The cost of knocking doors down – Lancashire Telegraph

REPAIR bills for doors battered down during police raids have cost Lancashire Constabulary £37,000.

There have been 83 cases where police have paid out to fix or replace doors during the past 12 months.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed 22 cases in eastern division, which covers Blackburn, Accrington, Clitheroe, Darwen, Great Harwood and Longridge. Ten of these cases were settled with a total of £5,532 paid out. And in Pennine division, 31 claims were received and 19 were settled, for a total of £9,889.80.

10. Dodging dinner money – Tyne Tees

I liked this innovative FOI a lot – asking schools and councils how much dinner money was unpaid. I guess it’s like the library fines story done for another department, but it unearths a number of social issues … and budget ones too.

Schools across the North East are owed nearly £200,000 in unpaid school dinner money, according to a Freedom of Information Act request.

In most councils there has been an increase in the amount owed, forcing councils to take the money from the rest of the education budget.

Some families owe more than £800, while more and more are struggling to pay.

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