Monday, February 16, 2009

FOI disclosure stories 9-15 February 2009

Britain's 35 serial killers.. who will never be released from jail - The Sunday Mirror 15/2/09
“The full list of the 35 serial killers, torturers and sex maniacs was obtained by the Sunday Mirror under the Freedom of Information Act. All have been given "wholelife tariffs" - the ultimate sanction available to judges in murders involving extreme sexual or sadistic violence or abduction cases. Among the most notorious are the Moors Murderer Ian Brady, 71, and Dennis Nilsen, 64, who is thought to have killed 16 men after luring them to his flat in North London.”

Force spent £548,477 in search for Madeleine – Press Association 14/2/09
“British police have revealed the cost of assisting the Portuguese investigation into Madeleine McCann's disappearance, it was revealed yesterday. Leicestershire police's part in the search for the missing girl cost £548,477 in 2007-08, the force said. It was reimbursed for most of this amount by a Home Office grant of £525,069.”

Bank charges data released by government - 12/2/09
“A freedom of information request from pressure group Legal Beagles has revealed that at least 65,000 people currently have their bank charge claims frozen. The penalty fees - which see banks charging customers £35 a time for offences such as exceeding overdraft limits - caused a consumer revolt in 2007.

 So great was the volume of claims cases that the Financial Services Authority obtained a waiver that year - leaving customers in limbo and awaiting the result of a High Court test case on the matter. However, this case has yet to be resolved, leaving the claimants unsure as to whether or not they will get their money back.”

The taxpayers’ bill so far for carmakers’ bailout: £527m – Daily Mail 10/2/09
“Britain's beleaguered car industry has already received generous taxpayer handouts of over half a billion pounds - even before a penny of Lord Mandelson's current £2.3bn bailout is dished out. Figures obtained from the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform under a Freedom of Information request reveal that £527.5m has been awarded to companies in the automotive sector by government departments and Regional Development Agencies in England and Wales since 1990. News of the assistance comes as Britain's car industry, which is mostly owned by overseas giants like Ford, Nissan, Honda and Tata Motors, is pleading for yet more taxpayer assistance to help it through the current economic meltdown. In response to the slump in car sales, the industry is slashing jobs and mothballing factories.”

Rail fares pushed up by Government squeeze on train operators – Daily Telegraph 09/2/09
“Companies proposing the lowest increase in ticket prices have failed to win any of the last eight franchises awarded by the Department for Transport in the last four years. But two of the contracts have gone to bidders planning the biggest fare rises, documents released under Freedom of Information laws have shown… While fares on a number of journeys, principally commuter trips, are capped by the Government; many others are not. It is these unregulated fares – including off peak tickets bought in advance and fully priced peak-time "turn up and go" trips – which have risen more dramatically. Some of the increases have been eye-watering in recent years, such as a 15.2 per cent increase in the price of an open return ticket between Bristol and Edinburgh.”


Liverpool News: Number of Liverpool City Council employees earning more than £100k doubles
- Liverpool Daily Post 14/2/09
“The number of employees earning in excess of £100,000-a-year at Liverpool City Council has doubled in just one year, according to figures unearthed by the Labour opposition. In the 2006/07 financial year 12 earned more than £100,000 but the following year the number was 26, a Freedom of Information request has revealed… Liverpool council said of the 26, four are head teachers, whose salaries are set by the government, and another senior post has been made redundant.”

Preston development would have 'low' impact on Blackburn
- Lancashire Evening Telegraph 13/2/09
“A huge expansion of Preston city centre will only have a “low” impact on trade in Blackburn, a new [obtained under the Freedom of Information Act] report has concluded. The study was commissioned by Lancashire County Council to assess the impact of the £700million Tithebarn scheme… The report’s findings are a blow to opponents of the masterplan - which also includes Blackpool council - following a bitter war of words this week. Blackburn council bosses claim Tithebarn will take 14 per cent of the town’s trade. The report says it is “inevitable” Tithebarn will divert trade from other towns in Lancashire, but says the reverse will also happen.”

Dozens of big cats spotted across North Wales – Evening Leader 13/2/09
“In the last seven years, people have reported panther and lynx-like creatures across the North Wales region. Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that 45 big cat sightings have been recorded by North Wales Police… Zoologist Quentin Rose… believes the known reports are the tip of the iceberg. And he warns that if nothing is done, the big cat population could explode, posing a threat to wildlife, livestock and humans.”

Illegal car parkers going unpunished
– Eastern Daily Press 12/2/09
“Thousands of people in Norfolk are flouting parking laws unpunished after the number of traffic wardens was cut by more than half, the EDP can reveal. Wardens are handing out almost 50pc fewer parking tickets than in previous years - from 8,400 five years ago to 4,157 in the year to date - as Norfolk police prepare to hand over responsibility for park-ing enforcement to County Hall.”

New style Warrant and ID cards issued to North Wales Police - North Wales Weekly News 12/2/09
“North Wales Police has rolled out 3,000 new style warrant and ID cards to its police force at the cost of £6,000. The cards have been issued to all officers, special constables, police community support officers and crime scene investigators.”

One fifth of tenants threatened with eviction by West Lancs District Council - Skelmersdale Advertiser 12/2/09
“West Lancashire District Council threatened 1,152 council tenants (approximately one fifth) with eviction last year. The figures, which also reveal that 2,282 (36%) tenants were behind with their rent, were obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request. They reveal that 18.4% of council tenants have received a notice of seeking possession, which instruct tenants to pay rent or face court proceedings. The West Lancashire figure of 1,152 possession notices compares to an average of 381 for the 109 local authorities which responded to the FOI request by the Liberal Democrats.”

300 thefts from cemeteries - Express & Star 11/2/09
“There have been almost 300 reports of thefts in cemeteries across the West Midlands in the last three years, it has emerged. Thieves have taken everything from toys, flowers and headstones to cash and even bus passes. Details of the thefts have been released to the Express & Star by West Midlands Police following a request using Freedom of Information Act legislation. It shows that in 2006 there were 100 recorded thefts in cemeteries, while in 2007 there were 108 and in 2008 there were 82.”

Graffiti costs Peterborough £150,000 a year
– Peterborough Evening Telegraph 11/2/09
“The number of graffiti incidents blighting the city has fallen by 35 per cent – but it still costs taxpayers a whopping £150,000 a year in clean-up bills... Freedom of Information Figures obtained by The Evening Telegraph reveal there were 4,356 incidents last year, down from 6,769 in 2007. However, the yobs who blight the city on a daily basis with their unsightly scrawls still leave a huge bill to be picked up.”

Town hall 'used own staff to boost library membership figures' - This is London 11/2/09
“A council tried to boost its position in government rankings by getting its own workers to sign up for its library service, it was claimed today. Officers at Lambeth allegedly concocted a plan to encourage staff to join libraries so that the Audit Commission would give a glowing comprehensive performance assessment of the borough. Most emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act referred to the plan as a "CPA quick win".”


Thieves are at work in area’s biggest hospital
- The Press and Journal 14/2/09
“Hospitals are far from immune from theft, according to details revealed yesterday by the Highlands’ biggest hospital… The figures [obtained under the Freedom of Information Act] show that there were 82 reports of items lost or stolen between 2004 and last year, with the majority of victims being NHS staff – with cash, clothes, handbags, purses and wallets stolen, and ID badges and security passes belonging to employees being taken… A wedding ring, a £500 watch, a Poppy Appeal collection tin and even a car are among dozens of items that have been lost or stolen at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, in the past five years.”

Police catch 'vandal' aged three – 09/2/09
“A three-year-old child was caught with a gang of children who were vandalising a building in Dundee, it has emerged [following a freedom of information request]… BBC Scotland has learned that the children had been throwing paint at a house which was due for demolition in the Fintry district of Dundee.”

Council bill for hiring consultants hits £27m
- The Press and Journal 09/2/09
"Highland and Moray councils have been accused of “throwing money down the drain” after it was revealed they spent £45million employing external consultants to carry out work on their behalf. Figures obtained by the Press and Journal under freedom of information laws show Highland Council spent £27million on consultants between 2004 and last year, while Moray Council’s bill amounted to £18million… the TaxPayers’ Alliance said relying on consultants had become an unnecessary “bad habit” for local authorities.”

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