FOI Friday: Affordable housing, music festivals, busy civil servants and more

Making hopefully not another false dawn return, here’s a round-up of stories from the local media in the UK which have been made possible thanks to the Freedom of Information Act

Lack of affordable housing < Brixton Buzz

If you read just one story this week from this list, make it this one. It’s a great example of local knowledge being used to mine the responses to an FOI request posted on Whatdotheyknow.

The number of new ‘affordable’ homes that Lambeth Council plans to build at Cressingham Gardens has dropped to 16. A Freedom of Information request has shown that this is the figure that the Labour Group is now aspiring towards.

We reported on Brixton Buzz yesterday how an FoI was able to flush out the land details of where Lambeth wants to build new homes. This is part of a £55m grant from the Greater London Authority.

We have now scrutinised this document a little deeper. Buried away in the data is the exact number of affordable homes for each site.

It was with some surprise that we found that an entire estate looks like it will be bulldozed so that only an extra 16 affordable homes can be built.

Crimes committed at a music festival < Liverpool Echo

Summer music festivals are big business, but the crimes committed at them can be hard to get access to other than perhaps the headline stats.

The Liverpool Echo was able to report what went on at dance festival Creamfields thanks to an FOI request:

Two allegations of rape were reported to police at this year’s Creamfields festival .

Data released under the Freedom Of Information Act (FOI) showed the incidents were said to have taken place on Saturday, September 26.

The crime reports were revealed as Cheshire police published data relating to a request for details of violent and sexual offences alleged to have taken place at the four-day dance music festival.

There were 12 offences of violence, two of which were assaults without injury on police constables – in both cases involving revellers spitting at the officer.

What are those civil servants up to? < WalesOnline

A tidal lagoon off the cost of South Wales is obviously big news. A review into whether to have a tidal lagoon was also big news. But the silence has been deafening since the review happened. So WalesOnline asked what had been happening.

Lots of reports have been written, apparently:

Around 50 officials in the UK Government have produced “a very significant” number of reports about the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, which remains in limbo.

The case of the £1.3 billion energy project is being handled by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which has remained tight-lipped since an independent review into tidal lagoon energy was published in January.

In a response to a Freedom of Information request by WalesOnline about what has been going on behind the scenes since the review and, prior to that, the granting of planning permission for the lagoon in 2015, a BEIS statement said: “We estimate that a minimum of 50 staff have worked on the assessment of the proposed Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon to date.”

What do you get a caution for these days? < Evening Standard

Hundreds of sex offenders, including rapists, are escaping with “a slap on the wrist” by simply being cautioned for their crimes, the Standard has learned.

Figures obtained by the Standard reveal more than 1,100 cautions were given to sex offenders in London, meaning they dodged court and potentially lengthy prison spells. The tally includes 16 cautions for rape, which carries a maximum life imprisonment sentence if convicted in court.

The cost of cleaning up traveller camps < Daily Post

Unauthorised Traveller camps are costing tax payers tens of thousands of pounds in legal fees, clean-up costs and improving site security, figures have revealed.

Scores of gypsy convoys continue to pitch up on car, business and public parks, schools, beaches and open spaces across North Wales.

At least £67,000 has been spent getting court orders and cleaning up the mess left after the Travellers have moved on, figures under Freedom of Information requests dating back to 2012, showed.

The power to fine for fly-tipping? < Get Surrey

Councils in Surrey issued just 21 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) for fly-tipping in 2016/17.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show Surrey’s councils barely used their powers to issue on-the-spot fines for fly-tippers at all between May 2016 and May 2017 – the first year they had such powers.

Number of animal cruelty cases falls < GazetteLive

The number of people being found guilty of animal cruelty in Teesside has dropped to its lowest number in six years.

In 2015/16, there were 34 people who were convicted of offences under the Animal Welfare Act, down 44% from the 61 people who were convicted in 2014/15.

The numbers are down from a peak of 79 people convicted in 2013/14, according to the figures released by the Ministry of Justice following a Freedom of Information request.

Stress levels rise at the fire service < Scotsman

The number of staff at the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service off work with stress rose nearly 80 per cent in a year. Figures obtained by the ­Scottish Conservatives show 137 firefighters and support staff took sick leave citing stress in 2016, up from 77 the previous year.

The SFRS said low figures for 2013 (fewer than ten) and 2014 (27) were not comparable due to the way absences were recorded prior to the creation of the single service.

Children excluded from school for sexual misconduct < Coventry Telegraph

Children as young as five years old have been excluded from school for sexual misconduct.

The shocking news includes the revelation some were kicked out of the classroom for watching pornography and sharing indecent images over the past four years.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request published by West Midlands Police revealed that 116 children aged 10-17 had been investigated in the past three years.

The FoI request also showed the trend of sharing naked or semi-naked, sexual pictures or videos or sending sexually explicit messages is mostly practiced by 13 to 16-year-olds and is more than twice as common in young males.


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