Monday, February 02, 2009

FOI disclosure stories 26 January-1 February 2009

Bosses' bumper pay at ailing Channel 4 – The Sunday Times 01/2/09
“Channel 4, the state-owned broadcaster that is seeking a massive public bailout, employs 19 bosses each earning more than the prime minister, according to new figures. The executives, who are paid at least £190,000 a year, are among a group of 91 staff at the channel who enjoy six-figure salaries. The disclosure, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, is embarrassing for the broadcaster which claims it will have an annual shortfall of £150m in its finances by 2012… Channel 4 does not make any of its own programmes, yet almost an eighth of its 800-strong workforce earns a salary of at least £100,000.”

Incapacity benefit scheme fails to meet targets – 30/1/09
“The poor performance of the Pathways to Work programme casts doubt on the entire direction of the Government's thinking on welfare… Figures released under a freedom of information request to the website IndusDelta show that the success rate for the Incapacity Pathways scheme between April and September last year - before the full impact of the recession and the associated rise in unemployment was in place - ran at just 27 per cent of its target. Ministers are committed to shifting most of the 2.6 million people currently claiming incapacity benefit into work, with only those with the most extreme physical or mental disabilities being spared the requirement to find a job. By the end of the 2008, the Pathways programme had been expected to deliver 73,200 jobs; the actual figures show that it was on target to find just 20,100.”

Few government departments budget for IT security training – Computer Weekly 30/1/09
“Most government departments do not have a specific IT security training budget, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed. Only one in nine government departments that responded to the FOI request from Firebrand Training said it had a specific budget for training staff in IT security… This approach is short-sighted, according to Robert Chapman, chief executive of Firebrand Training. "Training people is about improving their effectiveness and if they do not understand how to protect against security threats, the risk of exposure is much higher," he said.”

Speeding fines and prosecutions increase sevenfold in 10 years - 29/1/09
“Speed camera offences rose from 262,000 in 1996 to 1,865,000 in 2006, while the number of speed cameras in England and Wales rose from under 2,000 in 2000 to more than 5,500 by 2006. Conservative MP Mark Field, who obtained the figures [under a Freedom of Information request], says it is time the "pendulum turned back to the long-suffering motorist".

NICE guidance row fuelling huge leap in GP dermatology referrals - Pulse 28/1/09
"NICE’s controversial skin cancer guidance appears to be fuelling the sharp rise in hospital activity, with new figures showing a huge jump in referrals to dermatology departments. GP dermatology referrals soared by 24% year on year in the last nine months of 2008, according to figures from 30 NHS acute trusts. If replicated across England, the increase would represent a massive 140,000 extra GP referrals to dermatology departments since last April. Figures collected by Pulse using the Freedom of Information Act provide the first evidence of which clinical areas have fuelled the successive quarterly jumps in overall referrals, which have pushed many PCTs towards financial crisis."

Elderly forced to sell homes to pay care costs - Channel 4 28/1/09
“Families and patients face a postcode lottery when it comes to selling their homes to pay for care home costs, new research has revealed. Patients in some parts of the country are being forced to sell their homes to receive residential care, as councils neglect to use discretionary powers which would prevent such sales, it has been found. Almost 50 per cent of councils opted not to use these special powers in the past financial year - meaning families had to sell up - a series of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to local authorities showed today."

£2m wasted - Allister - Ballymoney Times 28/1/09
“Traditional Unionist Jim Allister has revealed the cost of pupil profiling and in doing so has called for the Revised Curriculum to be scrapped. The MEP was speaking after seeing documentation obtained through the Freedom of Information Act which stated that the total cost of profiling was more than two million pounds.”

Boris and Blair's war of words – Channel 4 26/1/09
“The war of words erupted between the two after the then London mayoral candidate Johnson publicly described police officers involved in the tragedy at Stockwell tube station as "trigger happy", correspondence obtained under Freedom of Information by Channel 4 News shows. The feud, which sheds new light on the strained relationship between the pair and the controversy over whether the London mayor eventually forced Blair out, resulted in Johnson refusing to apologise for the remarks, the letters show.”

Councils have paid £690m since empty building relief was removed - Building Magazine 26/1/09
“Councils have paid £690m in business rates on unoccupied property they own since the government's abolition of rates relief on empty buildings, according to the Business Centre Association. The BCA said 320 local authorities and regional development agencies are paying the amount to the government, following a freedom of information request to find out exactly how much councils are having to fork out. Last April, new legislation said warehouses that had stood empty for at least six months were subject to the rate. Shops and offices are eligible for the tax after only three months unoccupied. This has seen a number of property owners carry out demolitions to avoid paying the tax - with opponents referring to the resultant outcome as “Bombsite Britain”.”

PBC bursts into life with leap in new services – Pulse 26/1/09
“The Government’s flagship practice-based commissioning scheme is finally showing signs of creaking into life, a Pulse investigation reveals. Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows a more than 10-fold increase in new services commissioned over the last two years… the new findings suggest rumours of the demise of the policy may have been exaggerated. Back in 2006, PBC was virtually moribund, with the 33 PCTs that provided details to Pulse having approved or launched just 34 new services through the scheme. But over the last two years there has been a dramatic increase in activity, up to 247 services in 2007 and 394 in 2008...”


Hospitals in £1.3m foreign debt burden – Wales on Sunday 01/2/09
“The NHS is struggling to recover almost £1.3m owed by foreign patients treated in Welsh hospitals… Scores of non-EU nationals who are charged for NHS care have not paid their bills over the past three years. A Freedom of Information request by Wales on Sunday found that NHS trusts are chasing £1.27m from former patients. The money could pay for 40 senior nurses for a year or provide more than 60 hip replacements… Jonathan Morgan, the Conservative Shadow Health Minister, said: “With the NHS facing so many financial pressures, with many in great debt, it is imperative that the NHS recovers the money owed by non-EU nationals.”

Murderers and rapists living on our streets - Express & Star - Dudley 30/1/09
“More than 100 murderers, rapists and robbers sentenced to life in prison are living in towns and cities across the Midlands… The figures show there are 117 people who have been given life sentences residing in Staffordshire and West Midlands. The figures, obtained using Freedom of Information laws, show there are a total of 111 men and six women jailed for life for such crimes as murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, grievous bodily harm, arson.”

Shocking rise in deaths from NHS blunders in Wales - Daily Post 30/1/09
“Nearly 200 people were ‘killed’ by medical errors, accidents and abuse in the Welsh NHS last year. A staggering 191 deaths were recorded in hospitals in 2007-8, a Freedom of Information request by the Liberal Democrats revealed. That was nearly a 50% increase compared to 129 deaths recorded in 2005-6 a party statement said… Welsh Lib Dem health spokesperson Peter Black said NHS patient death resulting from error was regrettable, and the sharp increase in deaths over three years was unacceptable. “The rise in deaths due to errors within the NHS is shocking given that many of these deaths are avoidable,” he said.”

Wasteful police are chumps at the pumps
– Southern Daily Echo 30/1/09
“Thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ cash have been wasted by police officers filling their cars with the wrong kind of fuel. Since 2005, more than £22,000 has been splashed out because petrol has been put in a diesel tank or vice-versa. A Freedom of Information request revealed that £2.5m has been spent on repairing police cars across the country over the past three years.”

Thousands of firms threatened with court
– Kent Business 29/1/09
“More than 4,400 businesses were threatened with court action for defaulting on their rates in just eight months, figures obtained by the KM Group reveal. The statistics show that councils in Kent issued 4,457 businesses with court summonses between April and November last year, with about 2,500 subsequently issued with liability orders by magistrates. When such orders are granted, councils have the power to make businesses insolvent or instruct bailiffs to take away property if the outstanding bills remain unpaid. Such moves can frequently result in firms and companies going bust. The figures indicate that increasing numbers of businesses are struggling with their bills as the recession bites. They prompted a call from business chiefs for councils to be more flexible.”

FOI reveals three police were jailed - BBCi, Kent 29/1/09
“Forty five officers in Kent and Sussex were arrested over a 29-month period, according to figures obtained in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. Three officers, two from Kent and one from Sussex, were jailed between April 2006 and August 2008."

A third of crimes aren't solved
- South London Today 29/1/09
“One in three of all crimes reported to Lambeth police are dropped without being fully investigated. Figures obtained by the South London Press under the Freedom of Information Act show a total of 13,606 crimes – 38 per cent – were “screened out” last year, where officers believed there was little chance of solving them.”

Outrage over sex offenders not facing court - Lancashire Evening Post 29/1/09
“Concerns have been raised after it was revealed that several sex offenders were given warnings or cautions instead of being taken to court. The figures, obtained from Lancashire Police under the Freedom of Information Act, showed that cautions, conditional cautions, final warnings and reprimands were handed out for serious offences that could end up in a jail term – including the rape of a woman. Also among them were 14 indecent assaults on boys aged under 14, three on girls aged under 14 and four sex cases between family members.”

90pc asylum seekers given same date of birth - Your Local Guardian 29/1/09
“More than 90 per cent of asylum seekers registering at Croydon’s Lunar House are given the same date of birth, figures reveal. UK Borders Agency figures obtained under the Freedom of Information act showed in 2008, 24,437 visitors to its headquarters on Wellesley Road were given the date of birth as January 1. In 2007, of the 23,430 people applying for asylum in Britain, 21,652 – 90 per cent – were also given the January 1 birth date. According to the Home Office, those given the new identical date of birth did not have valid identification which proved their age or were unable to recall when they were born. Tory MP and Shadow Secretary, Chris Grayling demanded that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) find out more about the people that it lets into the country.”

Courts 'too lenient' on cruelty offenders - Belfast News Letter 28/1/09
“More than a quarter of animal cruelty offenders brought before the courts last year walked away without being charged for their crimes.... Figures obtained under a Freedom of Information question reveal the exact number of people brought before Northern Ireland courts in 2008 charged with animal cruelty related crimes...While 38 cases were taken to court, 11 were dismissed or withdrawn, and in at least another four cases, one of a multiple of charges was dismissed or withdrawn.”

Bus crime falls in Kingston - Your Local Guardian 28/1/09
“Crime on Kingston buses fell steeply last year, but violence still accounted for a third of total bus offences in the borough, according to new data from the Metropolitan Police. The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, showed that violence against the person accounted for 94 of the 276 bus offences recorded in Kingston between January and November 2008, a 22 per cent fall from 2007. Overall bus crime fell by 33 per cent, faster than the London average, with robbery, criminal damage and theft all recording double-digit reductions.”

Charity warning over youth Asbos - Suffolk Evening Star 27/1/09
“Children’s campaigners today warned that dishing out Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (Asbos) to troublesome teens had failed to tackle the epidemic of youth disorder. The message was issued after it emerged that more than a quarter of Asbos currently in operation in Suffolk had been handed to children, some as young as 14. A Freedom of Information request made by The Evening Star to Suffolk Constabulary found that of the 42 'live' Asbos, 12 had been given to those under 18.”

An assault every six days at Bronzefield prison - 27/1/09
“Women prisoners at Bronzefield in Ashford launched one attack on their officers every five days last year, according to figures released by the Government. There were 80 assaults by inmates on officers in 2008 – more than twice the figure the previous year... The figures were obtained by Spelthorne MP David Wilshire tabling a question in the Commons..."

Norfolk rural areas lose out on ambulance cover - Norfolk Now 27/1/09
“Rural areas are losing out when it comes to getting an ambulance quickly, according to new figures. In October, the EDP reported concerns from the board of NHS Norfolk that the county was getting a poor deal and that the East of England Ambulance Service was "investing in built-up areas where the targets are more attainable".
 Now the North Norfolk MP and Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb has obtained ambulance response times under the Freedom of Information Act. They show that Norfolk response times are slower than the east of England average, and that Norwich and Yarmouth were the best-performing areas in Norfolk.”

NHS slammed over consultant fees - Evening Star 27/1/09
“Health bosses in Suffolk are facing fresh criticism after admitting they had spent almost £900,000 of public money bringing in outside experts in just nine months. One month ago NHS Suffolk said it had spent £193,788 on external consultants between April and December - but yesterday it revealed the true figure was actually £866,437.”

Seized money stolen from police - BBC 26/1/09
“Money taken by police from a suspect was later stolen from a Leicester police station, it has emerged. The £2,000 was seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act and stored at the unnamed station in November 2007. A Freedom of Information request showed it was among items taken from police premises or vehicles in the city between November 2007 and October 2008. An investigation has been started, officers said, but no one had been arrested over the theft.”

Yob understood pensioner's feelings - Lancashire Evening Post 26/1/09
“More than 500 youngsters in Preston were referred to restorative justice sessions by Preston Police last year, it emerged today. Just five of the 520 young people referred by police in the city refused to take part in the sessions, which bring together victims and perpetrators of an offence or situation to resolve issues. A request to Lancashire Constabulary under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) also revealed that 233 of the youths were given Penalty Notices for Disorder, while 165 received reprimands and 62 were given final warnings. The city police force uses restorative justice in a range of scenarios including anti-social behaviour, neighbourhood disputes, shoplifting and bullying.”

High-ranking Devon police win bonuses
- Express & Echo 26/1/09
“Thousands of pounds have been paid to senior police officers in Devon and Cornwall under a little-known bonus scheme, it has emerged. The constabulary's top- ranking officers shared pay-outs totalling £20,000 in one year under the Chief Officers' Bonus Scheme, designed to reward them for performing well in personal development reviews and assessments by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.”


Even the police are not immune from becoming crime victims
- The Press and Journal 31/1/09
“Information obtained by the Press and Journal under the Freedom of Information Act reveal thieves stole a laptop, baton, uniform, hat and notebook, worth more than £1,060 in total, from the force in 2007-08. In the first six months of 2008, a police fleece jacket and a warrant card were also reported as stolen. A number of items were also lost by officers throughout the period… Gordon MP Malcolm Bruce said the figures prove the police were as much a target of crime as everyone else…”

SNP's booze bill for events tops £36,000
- The Scotsman 30/1/09
“The SNP government spent more than £36,500 on alcohol at hospitality events in its first year at Holyrood. The bill is almost twice as much as the previous Labour/Liberal Democrat Scottish Executive spent in 2003/4. Among the hospitality bills released under freedom of information was a £3,916.98 tab for a British-Spanish forum's reception and dinner… The total for the year came to £36,548.09 over 58 events.”

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