Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Media update - news about FOI or uses of FOI

Guardian comment (David Hencke) - The freedom to find things out
"Sir Christopher Meyer, chairman of Britain's Press Complaints Commission, has made an extraordinary claim. He said that it was now more difficult to get information out of the government than 10 years ago... don't know what planet our former ambassador to Washington is on. But both statements are horribly wrong."

New Statesman - Iraq: the new cover-up
"The government is withholding a secret draft of the Iraq WMD dossier that was never disclosed to the Hutton inquiry, the New Statesman can reveal...The existence of the secret draft has been confirmed by the Foreign Office, but it has refused to release it despite repeated freedom of information requests."

Campaign against the Arms trade
- The UK's universities own shares in the arms trade worth over £15million
"45 universities and university colleges have admitted that they own shares in at least one top arms company. Three institutions - UCL, Trinity Hall Cambridge and the University of Liverpool - each hold arms shares worth over £1million."

University of Manchester - Terrorist hotbeds 'a fantasy', says researcher
"Research at The University of Manchester has found that Muslim terrorists are no more likely to come from towns and cities with large Muslim populations than anywhere else....'The CrownProsecution Service were reluctant to provide a more comprehensive list - which is why we have used media reports in the Guardian and BBC Online. 'But we've made an application under the Freedom of Information Act which will hopefully allow us to carry out this research in more detail.' "
BBC - Police Scientology gifts inquiry
"Some received free invitations to a charity dinner, with Tom Cruise as the
guest of honour, details from a Freedom of Information Act request showed."

BBC Open Secrets - No more stories like this one?
"The BBC has just revealed the impact of lengthy delays at the professional body which hears complaints about alleged misconduct by nurses."

The Herald
- Arms flights prosecution ruled out
"According to papers released under the Freedom of Information Act, Prestwick Airport's freight-handling department was told only verbally about the dangerous cargo, when the operator should have had special written permission to "carry munitions of war in UK airspace".

- Scotland 'unprepared' for disaster
"A comprehensive report by the Centre for Disaster Management has identified key shortcomings in current plans drawn up by the Scottish Executive, emergency services, councils, health and other public services for a major incident."

Taxhack -Freedom of Information petition
"I've made occasional use of the Freedom of Information Act to ask about big tax cases, and the government's view on non-domiciliaries (the latter being surprisingly successful, in that the Treasury sent me a document detailing the £1bn annual presumed cost of the rule). The government is however proposing restrictions to the Act. It can reject claims if they are too expensive to answer, and it proposes to include 'reading time' in that figure."

Regional news

The News (Portsmouth) - Are they closing the door on democracy?
"However, The News reveals an alarming level of secrecy within parts of Portsmouth City Council. In fact the situation has reached a level where councillors – those elected by the people to make decisions – are having to use the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act to get access to information they believe is vital for them to carry out that responsibility."

The Welwyn & Hatfield Times - The cost of moving on traveller
"IT cost council taxpayers more than £3,000 in one year to move on travellers camped illegally in Times Territory we can reveal. With legal fees the total for the 2005/2006 financial year was £5,000."

Redhill And Reigate Life - Freedom of information carries high price tag
"A Croydon resident claims Croydon Council wanted to charge him more than £450 for a simple Freedom of Information request.Peter Morgan's request for a list of meetings between the council and Transport for London (TfL) to discuss the Tramlink extension was turned down because the town hall said it would cost them more than £450 to carry out." - this article is a bit confused but is a good example of how discrepancies can emerge when two authorities process requests for the same information

IC Wales - Assembly pays out for legal advice
"The Assembly Government has spent more than £6.7m getting legal advice from external lawyers - even though it has a fully staffed legal division of its own employing 84 people."

ICWales - Costs worries put 101 number pilot plan on hold
"PLANS to roll out a key Government pledge on introducing the 101 non-emergency number have been frozen over cost worries - despite official documents showing the scheme is under budget."

Brighton Argus - Ministers care more for the media than patients
"Tony Blair's recent assertion that decisions over hospital cuts in Sussex are yet to be made is contradicted by documents released under the Freedom of Information Act. These documents show that, as feared, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals (BSUH) NHS Trust is one of the 77 trusts most at risk of cuts because of existing significant deficits."

Oxford Mail - Cheap holidays blamed for truancy
"The equivalent of 321 pupils a day are skipping school in Oxfordshire with some missing vital lessons to jet away on cheap holidays with their families....Figures obtained by the Oxford Mail using the Freedom of Information Act showed unauthorised absences were falling year-on-year, but it remained a huge headache for teachers."

This is Chesire - Council could be pressing for more cash from the developers
"The Government recently said 40 per cent of major schemes in the UK get these section 106' agreements. But figures obtained by the Warrington Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act show Warrington has got them for only 20 per cent of major schemes since 2000."

Edinburgh Evening News - City universities report rising number of coursework cheats
"HUNDREDS of students have been caught cheating after Edinburgh's universities introduced computer software to catch them out...Figures obtained by the Evening News through the Freedom Of Information Act show that Napier has recorded the highest level of cheating in the city."

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