Latest cuttings: Full Fact and Hackney Citizen

A short post, just to link to a few things I’ve done recently.

Firstly, a couple of articles which I wrote for factchecking website Full Fact:

Full Fact logoAre only 1% of illegal immigrants deported?

Getting higher: has mephedrone use increased by 300% since it was banned?

I’m a big fan of what Full Fact do – calling out media organisations and politicians over dubious claims they’ve made and misleading use of statistics. Although a small organisation, they have an impressive track record of getting dodgy claims corrected.

I also wrote an article for the Hackney Citizen on a police request for a review of the licence of The Dolphin on Mare Street – a move which has led to howls of despair from the pub’s large fanbase.

300,000 London mobile phone thefts in three years

Almost 300,000 mobile phones were stolen in London in the last three years, according to Met Police figures which set out the near-industrial scale of the crime.

The number of thefts leapt from around 82,000 in 2010 to 111,000 in 2012 – the equivalent of more than 300 phones per day.

And only those thefts reported to the police show in the figures, meaning the true number of phones stolen each year is likely to be greater still.

More than 45,000 mobile phones were stolen in Westminster alone in the last three years, with Camden and Lambeth the next worst affected boroughs with around 20,000 thefts each.

Where do Oxbridge students come from?

Widely accepted as being at, or very near, the top of British higher education, the question of who gets in to Oxford and Cambridge universities has been the subject of interest since the year dot.

State school pupils, students from minority ethnic backgrounds, those from lower socio-economic groups – all are groups that Oxford and Cambridge have been accused of under-representing in the recent past.

But one question that doesn’t seem to have been asked before is: where do Oxbridge students actually come from?

My story with Richard Adams for the Guardian suggests that undergraduates at the universities aren’t drawn evenly from across the country, with a golden triangle centred on Oxford, Cambridge and London contributing disproportionately many students.

Oxbridge in thrall to applicants from the south-east

Oxbridge in thrall to applicants from the south-east

A ‘golden triangle’ of local authorities centred on London, Oxford and Cambridge send a disproportionate number of students to Oxbridge, as Richard Adams and I report for the Guardian:

Undergraduate places at Cambridge and Oxford universities remain dominated by students from London and the south-east of England, according to data released to the Guardian, highlighting the country’s wide gaps in educational achievement and the stubborn failure of efforts to encourage applications from more diverse backgrounds.

Surrey sent almost as many young people to study at Cambridge and Oxford last year as Wales and the north-east region of England combined. Yet 868 applications were received from Surrey, compared with 1,187 from Wales and the north-east – which between them had more than 100,000 more young people in the comparative age group.

A single London borough – Barnet – alone had 130 offers of Oxbridge places from 408 applications last year. That equates to 46 applications and 15 offers for every 1,000 16 to 17-year-olds in the borough, according to the latest census figures. Meanwhile, Dudley in the West Midlands – with a similar-sized age cohort – had just 61 applicants and 13 offers, or seven applications and 1.58 offers per thousand.

Three London local authorities – Richmond upon Thames, Kensington and Chelsea, and the City of London – sent more than 25 students to Oxbridge per 1,000 16 to 17-year-olds in 2012, compared with an average of just over 2.5 students per 1,000 for England and Wales as a whole.

You can read the full story here, and an accompanying analysis piece can be found here.

The story was based on freedom of information requests I submitted to Oxford and Cambridge universities. I’ll be posting more about the data behind the story shortly.

Hackney Council in school offer letters mix-up

A number of Hackney families were sent primary school offer letters containing details about other people’s children, as I report in a story for the Hackney Citizen:

Hackney Council has apologised after “a very small number” of families received details of other people’s children in primary school place offer letters sent out last week.

Sarah Miller, who lives in Homerton, contacted the council after receiving a pack that contained the name, date of birth and school offer details of another child.

The main letter in the offer pack related to Ms Miller’s daughter but a second document, which gave details of how to decline a place that had been offered, contained details of another child who shared the same surname.

Speaking to the Hackney Citizen, Ms Miller said that the incident was “pretty worrying”. She had been left wondering where the second part of her family’s offer pack had gone. “I don’t know who’s got the details of my child”, she said.

You can read the full story here. After I filed the story, Hackney Council confirmed that they were aware of seven offer letters that had been sent out containing details of someone else’s child.

Efes Snooker Club fights loss of licence

Efes in Dalston can carry on serving alcohol – for now – as I report in the Hackney Citizen:

A popular Dalston bar and community centre is fighting a decision to strip it of its alcohol licence.

Efes Snooker Club, on Stoke Newington Road, has submitted an appeal to Thames magistrates’ court after the bar’s licence was revoked in a council licensing hearing in February.

The hearing was prompted by a police request, which cited multiple alleged breaches of licence conditions.

Among the incidents cited by the police was an occasion where an undercover police officer was able to bring a weapon into the bar unchallenged.

Efes was given 21 days in which to lodge an appeal, and by doing so the bar is now able to carry on serving alcohol until its hearing.

You can read the full story here.

Stamford Hill planning dispute: some quick facts

One of the most interesting stories in Hackney at the minute is the attempt by a group of residents in the north of the borough to take on planning powers, setting up a neighbourhood planning forum by which to do this.

The proposal – which, to put it mildly, has split opinion – covers Stamford Hill and surrounding areas, and those involved have argued that changes to planning responsibilities are needed to reflect the rapid growth of the local population, including the ultra-orthodox Haredi Jewish community.

Details of the proposed Stamford Hill Neighbourhood Forum – and a rival forum proposal – can be found here. The Guardian also had a great analysis of the situation the other day, which drew out the back-story to some of the claims and counter-claims being made.

But what are the facts of the matter? Are the wards that would be covered by the Stamford Hill forum – Springfield, New River, Lordship, Cazenove – different to others in the borough? (Complicating the picture slightly, the rival North Hackney Neighbourhood Forum proposal covers Brownswood as well as these four wards).

Hackney Council data breach: which licensing applications were affected?

My recent story for the Hackney Citizen gave details of how Hackney Council had unwittingly made a number of residents’ personal data available on their website. The data breach affected more than 30 people who had contacted the council recently about licensing decisions, with details published including names, home addresses, mobile phone numbers and email addresses.

Space limitations meant my article couldn’t list all of the licensing decisions affected, so below I’ve published the full list, together with some details of the personal data found in each case:

  • New Premises Licence – Unit A, Gaumont Tower, Dalston Square, E8
    • Sub-committee meeting: 3 January 2013
    • Personal details published included the mobile phone numbers of three residents who had expressed views on the licence application

Hackney Council in personal data breach

Council in personal data breach
Council in personal data breach

A number of Hackney residents have had their personal details – including email addresses and mobile phone numbers in some cases – inadvertently published on the council’s website, as I reveal in a story for the Hackney Citizen:

Papers published on Hackney Council’s website have inadvertently revealed the personal data of a number of residents, an investigation by the Hackney Citizen has found.

Among the personal details discovered were the names, addresses, email addresses and mobile phone numbers of more than thirty residents who had been in touch with the council recently about licensing decisions.

The data featured in documents which had been partially redacted, but redaction had not always been done correctly, allowing personal details to be accessed by anyone who viewed the papers.

You can read the full story here.

Antidepressant prescriptions on the increase in Hackney

Antidepressant prescriptions in Hackney have increased by more than a fifth in four years, analysis of NHS figures shows.

The number of prescriptions went up from 92,082 in 2008-9 to 112,569 in 2011-12, according to NHS Information Centre data, an increase of 22.3 per cent.

The data, covering prescriptions by City and Hackney PCT GPs, may reflect growing levels of mental ill-health brought on by job insecurity and money worries caused by the recession.