The 12 days of Local Pressmasness: 10 great FOIs

pressmanessAny news editor will tell you the Christmas is a time to fear and dread. The dirty looks when the rotas don’t go someone’s way. The knowledge that behind the smiles, reporters still aren’t any further on with their Christmas specials a week before Christmas than they were six weeks before. And the lack of news between Christmas and New Year.

So thank goodness for FOI. Searching Google News for ‘Freedom of Information’ shows that when it comes to finding strong Christmas stories, FOI is one of the best tools around. So seeing as it’s Friday, here’s a festive FOI Friday … 10 great FOIs seen in the Press over Christmas:

1. The 10-year-old weighing more than 20 stones < Sunday Mercury

Sourced from: Health and Social Care information centre

A Birmingham schoolgirl aged just 10 has been weighed at 22 stone 11lbs – as a childhood obesity epidemic sends shockwaves through the city.

The unidentified Year 6 pupil heads a list of six similarly aged pupils who weigh in at more than 19 stone, according to frightening figures seen by the Sunday Mercury. And almost 50 youngsters are reported to have topped 16 stone by the age of 11.

2. The top shop for shoplifting < Liverpool Echo

Sourced from: Merseyside Police

Liverpool’s city centre Primark store was hit by shoplifters 768 times over the past three years – twice as many as any other business on Merseyside.

The ECHO can today reveal the 15 shops most commonly targeted by shoplifters in the region, with the budget Liverpool city centre store topping the list.

Eight different Asda stores also feature in the top 15, along with B&Q, TK Maxx and Tesco

3. The council staff on zero-hour contracts < The Citizen, Gloucestershire

Sourced from: local councils

MORE than 400 workers in Gloucestershire are on zero hours or casual contracts with local authorities.

Figures obtained by the Citizen under the Freedom of Information Act show 431 council workers are working – but on contracts which don’t guarantee hours.

The working arrangement hit national headlines earlier this year with unions claiming they mask unemployment figures, and some employers saying they give both firms and workers flexibility.

4. Paedophiles identified through Sarah’s Law < Bristol Post

Sourced from: Local Police

A TOTAL of 42 child sex offenders have been identified to parents by Avon and Somerset police under a law brought in following the murder of Sarah Payne.

The total, revealed after a Freedom of Information request, is understood to be the highest number identified by any police force in the country.

The Government’s child sex offender disclosure scheme allows a parent, carer or guardian to formally ask the police to tell them if someone they know has a record for child sexual offences.

5. Families living in one-bedroomed accommodation < SW Londoner

Sourced from: Local council via Labour MP

Tooting MP Sadiq Khan has accused the government and Wandsworth Council of failing the borough’s children after figures revealed a rise in families living in temporary accommodation.

Freedom of Information requests by the Labour MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice show the number of Wandsworth families living in temporary accommodation has almost doubled since 2008/09, going from 450 to 800.

The figures also revealed that there are currently 76 incidences of families living in council-arranged temporary accommodation of only one room per family.

6. Councils unsure over how much British food they serve < Yorkshire Post

Sourced from: Local councils

THE majority of the region’s local authorities could not tell the Yorkshire Post how much of the food they source is British.

More than £30m was spent on food by councils last year but only five provided figures which showed how much of the food they sourced was British in responses to Freedom of Information requests.

Councils who said they did not hold data on how much of their food was British included Wakefield, Hambleton, Harrogate, East Riding, Sheffield, Craven, Kirklees and Scarborough.

Calderdale Council also failed to provide a breakdown.

7. Hospital spending on art < East London Advertiser

Sourced from: NHS Trust

The cash-strapped trust running hospitals in east London has defended spending £270,000 on artwork claiming it was saving the NHS money in the long-run.

Despite reportedly losing £2million a week through financial problems, Barts Health NHS Trust was shown to have forked out £120,000 on ceiling artwork in a bid to provide what it claimed was a “comfortable and healing environment” for patients.

The excesses of Britain’s biggest health trust were revealed in a freedom of information request by a national Sunday newspaper which looked at NHS Trusts’ spending since 2010.

8. The £8million cost of unhealthy people < Sunderland Echo

Sourced from: Council

TACKLING the unhealthy excesses of the people of Sunderland has cost council tax payers more than £8million this year.

The figures, which we can reveal during the festive season – traditionally a time of over indulgence – were obtained through a freedom of information request, and show just how much city residents’ way of life is costing the taxpayer.

Sunderland City Council’s estimated spend on tackling drug misuse in adults, alcohol abuse, smoking and obesity in the current financial year of 2013 to 2014, amounts to £8,213,387.

9. 150 council vehicle crashes < Wigan Evening Post

Sourced from: Council 

CARELESS or luckless Wigan Council staff drivers have been involved in almost 150 road smashes, costing more than £360,000 over the last four years.

Figures released under Freedom of Information rules show that between 2010 to date there have been 148 recorded incidents where employees had damaged the authority’s vehicles when out on council business.

Some of the more prominent ones include a refuse wagon colliding with a car and dragging it some distance round the corner in Greenland Avenue, Standish, in December last year, with an insurance claim of £4,023.

10. The books children read < Manchester Evening News

Sourced from: Council 

A children’s book about sharks is the most borrowed book from Manchester libraries over the past year.

Nick Sharratt’s A Shark in the Dark! came out on top in a list of the most issued books from five libraries in central Manchester , having been borrowed on 140 occasions between October 2012 and November 2013.

Shark in the Dark! tells the tale of a young boy who is determined to catch a glimpse of a real-life shark before bedtime.





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