FOI Friday: Blue badge worries, beasts in Cumbrian, thefts from councils and naughty cyclists

FOIFRIDAYLOGO

This week’s FOI list is dominated by two stories made possible by the BBC – a nationwide investigation into how well developer money given to councils is spent, followed by questions about how many people visit A and E more than once, which uncovered some people visiting more than 100 times a year!

The councils taking so long to spend Section 106 money they have to give it back – various (sourced by the BBC)

Hertfordshire County Council has been criticised for failing to spend £56 million in community money – the highest amount among English authorities.

The council has obtained the funds through Section 106 agreements with developers, whereby an amount of money is given to offset the impact planning projects have on the community.

The Conservative-controlled county council was found to have the most unspent S106 money of the 316 local authorities in England which responded to a BBC Freedom of Information request. The remaining 37 authorities did not respond.

It has also been revealed that £691,000 in S106 money had to be returned to developers by the county council in a five-year period up to April, 2013, as it had not been spent in time. For the past financial year, £45,000 was returned.

170,000 blue badge drivers in Merseyside – Liverpool Echo

Liverpool parking bosses fear they are being left millions of pounds out of pocket – after Mersey councils handed out more than 170,000 blue badges to drivers in the last five years.

An ECHO investigation found that although stricter guidelines have seen the number of badges by some authorities fall, some councils have increased the amount they are giving out.

Only Liverpool council – which estimates blue badge fraud and misuse could be costing it alone £1m or more a year – has prosecuted anyone for breaking the rules.

Kent’s international crime league – Kent Messenger

Kent is truly a league of nations when it comes to crime, new figures reveal.

A Freedom of Information request found people from 100 countries, including the UK, were arrested and charged in connection with an offence in the county in a year.

There were 14,842 arrests in the county that resulted in at least one charge between October 2012 and 2013.

When broken down by nationality, the most number of arrests involved people from the UK – 12,960 or 87% of the total figure.

Visiting hospital 100 times in one year – Lancashire Telegraph (data sourced via BBC)

HEALTH campaigners have blasted those who repeatedly turn up at emergency hospital departments with minor complaints – including two patients who visited hospital more than 100 times each last year.

New figures released by East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust also showed there were five patients who sought emergency or urgent care more than 50 times each in 2012/13, with 224 people seeking care on more than 10 occasions.

The new statistics, released under Freedom of Information laws, showed one patient turned up at hospital 136 times, with another attending 124 times. The visits were spread between the A&E ward, the urgent care centres based at the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General hospitals, and the minor injuries unit in Accrington.

What people steal from the Police – Teesside Evening Gazette

Thieves targeted Cleveland Police’s own staff at least 23 times in the last three years.

More than £2,500 worth of police property has been stolen from the force since April 2011, according to information obtained by the Gazette under the Freedom of Information Act.

It shows brazen criminals took a wide variety of items from officers and police stations, ranging from cameras to car lights.

And in one case staff at Billingham Police Station were left red-faced when a crook made off with the telephone from their front desk in January 2012.

… And what gets stolen from the council – Portsmouth News

ITEMS worth thousands of pounds have been stolen from councils in the area, The News can reveal.

Thieves took council property including Second World War medals, bikes, laptops and phones to a total cost of nearly £46,500.

A Freedom of Information request shows Portsmouth City Council had items worth £5,890 stolen, Gosport’s council £2,695, and Hampshire County Council £37,890.

Medals stolen from Portsmouth’s museums included four Second World War campaign medals, taken from the D-Day Museum. All were returned after an appeal run in The News in May 2013.

How many sex offenders living near you? – North Wales Daily Post

There are 830 sex offenders living in North and Mid Wales with at least 525 of those being classed as paedophiles.

The figures were supplied by North Wales and Dyfed-Powys Police in a Freedom of Information request by the Daily Post.

On a county level, the highest number of registered sex offenders live in Conwy at 153, followed by Denbighshire 144, Wrexham 130, Gwynedd 93, Flintshire 85 and Anglesey 63.

North Wales Police said they had concerns about “releasing details of actual towns/villages due to the geographical area and small numbers”.

Fines for bad cycling soar – The Scotsman

THE number of rule-breaking cyclists being hit with fines in the Lothian region has spiralled in the past three years, it has been revealed.

Police Scotland figures made public under Freedom of Information legislation show that 193 riders were handed the £30 fixed-penalty notices for traffic offences in 2012-13, swelling coffers by almost £6000.

The total caught and fined in the Lothian and Borders region compares with just 99 in 2010-11 and 119 the following year, meaning it has almost doubled in a 36-month period.

Motoring groups said the rise could be attributed to police taking a harder line with riders following a string of casualties, while cycling groups said the fact that more bikes are on the roads could explain the increase.

How safe are hospital staff? – Salisbury Journal

BETTER reporting is the reason for more recorded incidents of aggression towards emergency department staff, Salisbury District Hospital bosses claim.

Figures revealed in a Freedom of Information request show that security staff were called to the department on 46 occasions last year, compared with 22 times in 2011/2012 and eight times in 2010/2011. Police had to attend seven of the 46 incidents, the figures show.

Physical abuse of staff by patients, or someone accompanying a patient, went up from six incidents in 2010/2011 to 15 last year, while over the same period, incidents of verbal abuse increased from 16 to 29.

Does the ‘best of Cumbria’ exist? – North West Evening Mail

THE mystery surrounding the controversial “beast of Cumbria” continues, as Cumbria police records reveal a rise in reported sightings – including several attacks on livestock.

Concerned walkers, hikers and farmers have contacted Cumbria Police to report everything from a “black panther” to a “lion or lioness”.

Distressed callers also describe mutilated sheep, slaughtered lambs and decapitated deer.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request has highlighted the growing scale of public concerns, with 24 reported sightings in five years.

 

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