FOI Friday: Absestos claims against councils, zero hour contracts, councils with millions in the bank and police encounters with men in fancy dress

FOIFRIDAYLOGO

Absestos claims made against councils < Manchester Evening News

own hall bosses throughout Greater Manchester are facing a ‘ticking timebomb’ of mounting claims from people struck down with conditions linked to deadly asbestos.

Manchester council paid out almost £600,000 in damages to victims in the last year alone, an M.E.N. investigation has found.

The 2013/14 claims had to be settled using taxpayers’ money, rather than through insurance as the cases predated the 1980s when the council did not have asbestos cover.

Figures obtained under Freedom of Information requests reveal victims of asbestos-related diseases have won a total of £1.8m in damages from councils in Greater Manchester in recent years.

Councils stash millions in banks < North West Evening Mail

MILLIONS of pounds of taxpayers’ money is being stored in investments and bank accounts by councils across Cumbria.

Cumbria County Council has a portfolio of £177.7m in a range of banks, despite making sweeping cuts to front line services.

Copeland District Council holds £55.5m, Barrow Borough Council has £16m in accounts while South Lakeland District Council has £17.3m.

The figures have been revealed thanks to a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Evening Mail.

Chances of a rape conviction < WalesOnline

Alleged rape victims in Wales are among the least likely to see their cases end in a conviction.

Figures released under a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Justice show defendants are more likely to plead not guilty and walk free in Wales.

Barely a fifth of rape cases (22.8%) in magistrates courts in South Wales led to a conviction in 2013, one of the lowest conviction rates in England and Wales.

The crimes not convicted because the accused said sorry < Thisisthewestcountry

A RAPE victim’s mother is outraged that criminals responsible for 61 sexual offences over three years have avoided court by ‘saying sorry’ to their victims.

The cases are among 13,219 since April 2011 that Avon and Somerset Police deemed appropriate to deal with by a ‘community resolution’.

A police spokesman, speaking after the figures were released following a Freedom of Information request from the News, said serious crimes including sexual offences and domestic abuse should not normally be dealt with by ‘CR’, although an inspector could decide otherwise in certain cases.

Labour councils using zero hour contracts < Liverpool Echo

Liverpool council has defended its use of staff on “zero hours” contracts after it emerged up to 500 staff at the authority were employed on them.

Information revealed under the Freedom of Information Act shows that there are 442 people who work for the authority who are not given fixed hours per week.

Politicians and trade unions have launched high-profile campaigns in recent years against the conditions, which they claim commit people to low paid jobs that are so irregular in terms of hours that it stops them working elsewhere to earn enough to live on.

Councils spending money to taxi pupils between schools < Deadline News

SCOTS councils are squandering millions of pounds ferrying pupils between schools by taxi for lessons.

Teacher shortages mean youngsters are getting cabs from their own school to another to study a specific subject.

Five councils have confirmed spending more than £1.3m on taxis for this purpose in the past five years.

Police officers’ abuse of Twitter and Facebook – and the details why < Rossendale Free Press

A catalogue of abuse and inappropriate behaviour on social media by police officers has been uncovered by the Free Press.

New figures, obtained using the Freedom of Information Act, show that more than 20 Lancashire Police officers have been disciplined over their use of Twitter and Facebook in the last five years.

One officer resigned in 2010 after ‘bombarding a member of the public with offensive and racist messages via Facebook and text’.

Another resigned after sending a Facebook message to another serving member of Lancashire Constabulary ‘in respect of immigration issues and racial differences.’

Truancy fines < Ipswich Star

Parents have received fines totalling more than £14,500 in the last three academic years because of the unauthorised absence of their children from school, it has been revealed.

Data released through the Freedom of Information Act has shown the amount handed out decreased in 2012/13, where the figure stood at £2,750, compared to the previous year where fines totalling £4,650 were handed out.

However, for the academic year ending 2014, that figure rose sharply to £7,260, but 22 of these fines remain unpaid.

The second jobs of police officers < Western Daily Press

Bee-keeping, modelling and sports refereeing – these are some of the second jobs held by police officers in Gloucestershire.

From the regular to the more unusual, more than 100 officers and staff at Gloucestershire Constabulary have declared what keeps them busy when they are not on duty.

It includes an officer who makes money from working as a massage therapist, a police officer who keeps bees, and a member of staff who moonlights as a model.

The number of second incomes declared by officers comes after a Freedom of Information request to Gloucestershire Constabulary.

Spending over an hour in an ambulance < Newbury Weekly News

ALMOST 2,500 patients rushed to hospital in an ambulance had to wait in excess of one hour before they could be admitted to A&E departments figures obtained from the South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) have shown.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by the Newbury Weekly News revealed that 2,408 patients across the south of England had to remain in the care of ambulance crews for over an hour after arrival at hospital, between April 2013 and March this year.

The figures also revealed that the longest wait faced by a patient transmitted to the Royal Berkshire Hospital (RBH), Reading, by ambulance was four hours 26 minutes, and two hours 27 minutes at the Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital.

The fancy dress costumes encountered by police officers < South Wales Evening Post

A JEDI knight, the Harlem Globetrotters, an orange and a group of bananas — just some of the fancy dress costumes South Wales Police have encountered in the course of their work.

The details of the colourful incidents were revealed following a Freedom of Information request to the force — though who asked for the unusual details has not been disclosed.

The response shows the type of incidents officers were called to over the last two years and crucially — crucially for the person who asked the question anyway — what kinds of fancy dress was involved.

The files include officers in Swansea dealing with antisocial behaviour involving a Jedi Knight and Batman, as well as with someone wearing “large fancy dress ears”, while officers in Port Talbot received a call about a group of people wearing pink onesies.

How common is child abduction? < Plymouth Herald

There were 18 child abduction or kidnapping offences in Devon and Cornwall over 12 months, police have revealed.

Nine of them were child abduction by someone other than a parent, one was classified as kidnapping on someone under 18 and eight were child abduction by a parent.

The figures have been revealed by Devon and Cornwall police after a Freedom of Information request, and relate to April 2012 to March 2013.

Council staff re-employed after taking redundancy < Leicester Mercury

Nearly 40 members of staff at Leicestershire County Council have been made redundant, paid off and then been re-employed, it has been revealed.

Figures released by County Hall show the authority has let go of 39 employees since 2010 but then taken them back on at a later stage.

The Mercury asked the council for details of redundant staff it has re-employed after a source said he was aware of employees agreeing to generous redundancy packages and then returning as consultants on substantial salaries to do their previous job.

Attacks on traffic wardens < Chester Standard

TRAFFIC wardens in Chester have been run over, driven at and forced to endure verbal abuse from irate drivers who have seen red after getting a ticket.

Latest figures obtained by the Leader show the disturbing level of physical attacks which have prompted repeat police action and calls for body cameras to help protect frightened wardens.

Traffic wardens in Chester city centre and surrounding areas were subjected to 20 incidents of verbal and physical abuse by members of the public and shopkeepers, according to information contained in a Freedom of Information request. The figures have been collated over a 12-month period from July last year.

Where you are most likely to get fined if you don’t clear up after your dog < Express and Star

Dozens of dog owners in Dudley are being slapped with £50 fines for failing to clear up after their pets each year – with the majority of culprits caught in three parks in the borough.

Out of those caught, more than 10 were stopped at the Wrens Nest Nature Reserve, seven at King George V Park in Wordsley and at Buffery Park in Dudley.

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