Cumbria police staff cleared over crime commissioner’s expenses leak
Two Cumbria police staff suspended last month, after details of their chauffeur-driven police and crime commissioner’s travel expenses were leaked to the media, have been cleared of any wrongdoing and will return to work. A 47-year-old man who was arrested on 10 April on suspicion of data protection offences and misconduct in public office will face no criminal action and has had his suspension lifted.
Another staff member, a man aged 59 who was interviewed by police on a voluntary basis, will also face no criminal action and will return to work. Two other people – a 50-year-old woman who works for Cumbria constabulary and a 54-year-old man from Penrith who does not work for the force – remain under investigation by the force’s professional standards department. Their bail dates have been extended to 5 July and the constabulary is preparing files for the Crown Prosecution Service.
The investigation was launched after a whistleblower claimed that Richard Rhodes, Cumbria’s Conservative police and crime commissioner (PCC), had used taxpayers’ money to pay for chauffeur-driven vehicles – only paying the money back when details appeared in the press. Read more
Mark Smith | The Guardian | 23rd May 2013
Nursery reforms could cut childcare costs by 28%, DfE calculates
The cost of childcare could be cut by as much as 28% if the government was to go ahead with stalled plans to raise ratios of children to staff in nurseries. Government plans are currently stalled due to a disagreement within the coalition between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives.
The new calculations released by the Department for Education under a freedom of information request said parent costs could be cut from £4 an hour to £3.49 an hour (a 12% cut) while teacher salaries could go up. Alternatively, if the extra revenue was used solely to reduce costs for parents, this could yield costs savings for parents of up to 28%.
Conservative ministers had been hoping to relax staff-child ratios by September, but Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, vetoed the plans saying he thought the proposed ratio changes would lower the quality of childcare. Conservatives are likely to use the figures to show they have been on the side of parents and choice, but are being blocked by the Liberal Democrats. Read more
Patrick Wintour | The Guardian | 23rd May 2013
Conservation agency approved cull of endangered birds, documents show
Tens of thousands of endangered birds have been shot, trapped and poisoned on one of England’s largest shooting estates with the approval of the government agency responsible for protecting the species, a Guardian investigation has found.
The government has licensed an annual cull of lesser black-backed gulls on the Abbeystead estate on the Bowland Fells in Lancashire for decades, officially to stop water pollution. However, some experts believe the culling was also partly to protect grouse shooting interests.
The regulator Natural England now admits that, since a government-led bird conservation review occurred in 2001, “confusion” over the legal protection status of the species has allowed the culling to continue, despite its population crashing in recent years. Read more
Leo Hickman | The Guardian | 23rd May 2013
Unhappy Mondays: It’s the day of the week when muggers steal the most phones
It is the most miserable day of the week, a return to reality from the elation of the weekend. To compound Monday’s reputation problem, new figures indicate it is also the day when people are most likely to have their mobile phone stolen – with skint thieves who have spent their funds over the weekend to blame.
Figures the Metropolitan Police released under the Freedom of Information Act this week detailed the rising number of mobile phone thefts by days of the week for the last three years in London. Monday became the most active time for muggers last year with some 17,382 thefts.
After beginning the week on Monday and Tuesday with a combined total 33,347 thefts, thieves appeared to suffer a midweek malaise last year when the numbers of thefts dropped to 29,952 combined on Wednesday and Thursday. Surprisingly it is Friday, when millions in the capital head out to the pubs, clubs and bars, that proved to be the day with least thefts last year with 14,876. Read more
Sam Masters | The Independent | 23rd May 2013
Government licensed secret buzzard egg destruction, documents reveal
A government agency has licensed the secret destruction of the eggs and nests of buzzards to protect a pheasant shoot, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The action sets a historic precedent, being the first time such action has been licensed against any bird of prey to protect game shoots since raptors gained legal protection decades ago. Buzzards are recovering from near extinction and now number 40,000 breeding pairs, while 35m pheasants are bred each year for shoots.
It is also less than a year after the wildlife minister, Richard Benyon,abandoned related plans citing “public concerns”. Benyon, whose family estate in Berkshire runs shoots, cancelled plans to spend £375,000 on testing control measures for buzzards around pheasant shoots after a public outcry in May 2012. Read more
Damian Carrington | The Guardian | 23rd May 2013
IRELAND: Parents left in the dark over findings of inspections into childcare facilities
Thousands of parents will leave their kids in creches and other childcare facilities today believing they are in secure hands and in well-regulated surroundings.
And, for the most part, they are. But as the Irish Independent revealed in a major expose last year, inspectors have found serious lapses of standards in many facilities, including Montessori schools.
The shocking litany of complaints included shouting at children and slapping, serious understaffing and youngsters being left go thirsty. We also uncovered, after a painstaking search and trawl through inspection reports obtained under Freedom of Information, damp and cold buildings and a lack of vetting of carers for possible criminal records. Read more
Eilish O’Regan | Irish Independent | 23rd May 2013
IRELAND: Carál Ní Chuilín overturns PRONI archive refusal
A solicitor for the families of two people killed during the Troubles made a Freedom of Information request for access to inquest records. The Public Record Office refused, saying it was not in the public interest to release the information.
That decision has been overturned by the Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín. Ms Ní Chuilín is responsible for overseeing the work of PRONI. The files held by the archive include documents from dozens of inquests into controversial killings.
The solicitor was seeking information about the deaths of Gabriel Higgins, who was shot dead by the UVF in September 1979, and Francis Toner, who was killed by members of the same paramilitary organisation in May 1982. Read more
BBC | 23rd May 2013