Wednesday, September 09, 2009

FOI Disclosure Stories 10 August - 6 September 2009

Dental costs vary hugely across UK - Guardian Unlimited 04/09/09
“Huge variations in dental costs across the country have emerged from figures showing that in some areas practitioners are paid almost 10 times as much as others… The apparent disparities in dentists' pay come from a series of Freedom of Information requests put in to English primary care trusts (PCTs)... In Westminster PCT, for example, the figures show that the maximum paid for a UDA is £105.58 and the minimum £20.19. By contrast, in Sandwell, a relatively deprived area in the West Midlands, the range is from £11.08 per UDA up to a maximum of £45.83.”

Tories put the heat on school kitchens
- Guardian Unlimited 03/09/09
“Almost one in five primary schools do not have the equipment to prepare lunches on site, forcing them to serve ‘meals on wheels’, a survey of local authorities, conducted by the Conservatives using the Freedom of Information Act, has revealed. Three out of 10 schools do not have full kitchens, with 2,853 primaries transporting food from another school and some 670 schools serving only cold food.”

Use of restraint surges in YOIs – Children & Young People Now 03/09/09
“New figures obtained by CYP Now from the Ministry of Justice show that, while use of restraint in secure children's homes (SCHs) and secure training centres (STCs) has dropped, the practice is on the rise in young offender institutions (YOIs). In the year ending March 2009, restraint was used 4,274 times in YOIs compared with 3,409 times the previous year.”

Applicants avoid top jobs as FSA gets tough - FTAdviser 03/09/09
“Nearly one in 10 applicants chasing top jobs at large financial services firms have withdrawn their applications since the FSA started scrutinising the hiring process, according to Reynolds Porter Chamberlain. Following a Freedom of Information Act request the FSA released data to the city law firm revealing 15 applicants for senior roles had withdrawn their application for FSA approval before receiving a formal response from the regulator. At the stage of their withdrawals only 147 had been interviewed by the FSA, with a further 27 arranged or to be arranged.”

'Pointless rebranding wastes money' - Public Servant 01/09/09
“The government is wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds on pointless rebranding, the Tories have said, including £3,830 on a new Department for Communities and Local Government logo when the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister was abolished three years ago only for another £24,765 to be spent rebranding the department as Communities and Local Government. As a result of a Freedom of Information Act request, the Conservatives have found that almost £170,000 has been spent on such rebranding.”

Village schools closing at a rate of one a month - 31/08/09
“One village school is closing every month as an increasing number of families find themselves priced out of the countryside, campaigners have warned. Research commissioned by a coalition of housing and education groups suggests that if the situation continues to worsen, another 200 rural schools will shut within five years. Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Housing Federation show that between 2004 and 2008, 62 country primary schools closed their doors forever, an average of 12 a year.”

‘More than 30’ police hurt at G20 – BBC 30/08/09
“More than 30 police officers were injured in clashes or accidents during protests at the G20 summit in London, new figures show. The injuries ranged from being hit by flying debris, attacked by protesters or crushed in crowds to dog bites and being scalded while making a hot drink. Officers from four forces were involved in the two-day operation in April.”

Cost of school rebuilding soars - Guardian Unlimited 30/08/09
“The costs of planning and setting up new schools have soared by 50% under the government's rebuilding programme, with one council paying consultants £24m before a single building had even been constructed. The massive rises in the cost of new privately financed schools – obtained under the Freedom of Information Act – have contributed to the bill for the government's flagship school rebuilding programme spiralling from £45bn to £55bn.”

CRB looks to ID cards to solve accuracy woes
- The Register 27/08/09
“Millions could be asked to provide ID card and fingerprint data to get a job under new systems being developed by the Home Office following a collapse in the accuracy of background checks. News of the plans emerged in the response to a Register Freedom of Information Act request to the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). Today campaigners warned it could be used to help impose ID cards through the back door.”

Mervyn King agreed £16million of bonuses for Bank of England staff over three years
- 27/08/09
“Figures obtained by The Daily Telegraph under the Freedom of Information Act show that Mr. [Mervyn] King agreed cash payments totalling £15.8million for his 1,600 staff in the three years until the end of March 2009. The bonuses were sanctioned by an executive team chaired by Mr King. They increased by 19 per cent as Britain slid into recession from £4.8million in 2006/7, to £5.3million in 2007/8 and £5.7million in 2008/9.”

4,000 Born Out of Baby Wards – The Mirror 26/08/09
“Almost four thousand women gave birth outside maternity wards in England last year… Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, showed 1,548 women had unplanned home births, 38 babies were born in an ambulance and 333 in transit to the hospital. It was revealed 63 children were delivered in A&E and 171 in an antenatal wards or area.”

BBC spends more than £1m entering programmes for awards - 26/08/09
“The corporation is devoting £329,400 of licence fee-payers’ money to its Awards Unit this year, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act. For the past two years it has spent even more, with the budget totalling £366,000. The unit, which is overseen by Jana Bennett, the BBC television chief, also employs two staff members, the documents show.”

Pavement trip payouts cost £82m - BBCi 25/08/09
“Councils in England have paid out more than £82m in compensation over the past five years to people who have tripped on pavements, figures have revealed. More than 90 authorities responded to a Freedom of Information request by the Liberal Democrats. Leeds City Council had the highest compensation payment, which was £10.2m between 2004 and 2009.”

Home Office trebles consultancy spend - ComputerWeekly 25/08/09
“Home Office spending on its top five consultants almost trebled from £27.3m to £77.8m in the past year as it wrestled with two huge and controversial projects, the national identity scheme and the interception modernisation programme. The big winners were PA Consulting and Deloitte & Touche, which between them have taken £61.6m in the past two years.”

CCTV Boom 'Failing In Fight Against Crime' - Sky News 24/08/09
“An internal police report has raised serious concerns about whether CCTV is being used effectively in the fight against crime. The document reveals that CCTV footage was used to solve less than one crime for every 1,000 cameras in London. Obtained from Scotland Yard using the Freedom of Information Act, the report recommends an overhaul of the way CCTV is handled across the UK.”

Champagne general? He drinks £1.49 plonk and shops at Lidl – News of the World 23/08/09
“[Armed Force chief General Sir Richard Dannatt’s] total [expenses] over the last four financial years, including 18 months official expenses as Commander in Chief Land Forces, adds up to a modest £19,290.77… In the last year most of the 17 formal dinners he hosted in London at his official Kensington Palace residence followed a trip to a nearby Tesco. On August 31, 2008, he hosted Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor, Indian High Commissioner Shiv Mukherjee, and 21 others for a reception at Kensington Palace costing £123.58. It worked out at £5.15 per person, consisting largely of pastry, cheese and salmon from Tesco..."

Government art cost taxpayers £500,000 – 22/08/09
“Details obtained through a freedom of information request reveal that, despite the economic downturn, the Government Art Collection has spent £556,911 on acquisitions in the year 2008 to 2009. This is a 34 per cent increase from the previous year and more than double what was spent on artworks in 2006 to 2007.”

450,000 children failed by 'coasting' schools - 22/08/09
“More than 450,000 children are being taught in ‘coasting’ schools that are failing to stretch their pupils, according to the Government's own assessment. Official data, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, shows that a total of 470 secondary schools, many located in middle-class suburbs and shire counties, are ‘resting on their laurels’ instead of pushing pupils to get the best grades. They have been designated as ‘coasting’ by the Department for Children, Schools and Families under new criteria introduced last year.”

High cost of Iraq war surprised Whitehall - 21/08/09
“Tony Blair’s government believed the UK would spend no more on the 2003 invasion of Iraq than it did on the 1991 Gulf war, according to documents released under freedom of information rules... In a document drawn up for Ed Balls, special adviser to Gordon Brown, the then chancellor, officials said the “central estimate” for the cost of “preparation, deployment and return” of UK troops from Iraq was £2.5bn, similar to the figure for UK participation in the 1991 Gulf war. However, Treasury estimates rose sharply, and in February 2003 it suggested that the war would cost £5.5bn in the worst possible case. According to the Ministry of Defence, the total cost of UK military operations in Iraq from 2003 to 2009 was £8.4bn."

Thousands of NHS samples ‘mislabelled’
– Channel 4 More 4 News 20/08/09
“Following an FOI request to every NHS trust in the UK, to which 120 trusts replied, it emerged that 365,608 specimens were mislabelled before they arrived at the pathology laboratories. In addition, 11,712 samples were incorrectly labelled by pathology lab staff. More4’s FOI investigation also revealed there were 46 recorded cases last year where mislabelling was found to have been related either to a patient death or a significant delay in patient treatment.”

Local authorities breach parking guidelines - The Times 18/08/09
“Six local authority councils have been accused by the consumer watchdog Which? of breaching Government guidelines by setting targets for the number of parking tickets issued by their wardens. A freedom of information request by Which? found that the councils - Basildon, Richmond upon Thames, Lewisham, Bromley, Shropshire and Carmarthenshire - all ‘expect a certain number of tickets to be issued.’ Setting such targets is against Department for Transport guidelines.”

Energy minister walks the talk as he shuns Government limo
- Click Green 17/08/09
“Records released under a Freedom of Information Act request showed that Energy and Climate Change Minister Lord Hunt walked to 24 official events and cycled to a further three. In the seven months up to May this year, Gordon Brown's green envoy used his ministerial car on 26 occasions to travel to meetings in Oxford and on the outskirts of London.”

The great police pay overtime bonanza - The Independent 17/08/09
“Britain's police constables are topping up their salaries by thousands of pounds every year – in some cases more than doubling their annual pay – by making large overtime claims, an investigation by The Independent has discovered. Freedom of information requests responded to by 35 of the 51 forces in England, Scotland and Wales showed that more than 12,000 PCs claimed more than £6,000 each in overtime last year – a 20 per cent increase on their salaries. Officers in some of the country's rural forces earned upwards of £25,000 in overtime alone. Nearly 500 made more than £15,000 on top of their salaries."

Banksy charged £1 for Bristol exhibition, insisted CCTV footage destroyed - The Times 13/08/09
“The feted street artist and collector’s favourite Banksy charged just £1 for staging an exhibition in his home town of Bristol on the condition that all CCTV footage of him preparing the show was destroyed. A Freedom of Information Act request revealed that the elusive artist, who can fetch up to £300,000 for a single work, agreed to the nominal fee from Bristol City Council even though the exhibition at the City Museum and Art Gallery is his largest ever.”

Foreign embassies owe £28 million in unpaid congestion charge
- 10/08/09
“The Foreign Office has taken over the collection of unpaid congestion charges and parking fines by overseas embassies in London which now stand at £28 million. The total has more than doubled from £12 million in the last 12 months according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.”


Thousands of Denbighshire pupils taught in prefabs - Denbighshire Visitor 02/09/09
“At least 90 schools in North Wales are relying on 157 temporary cabins – with some dating back to the 1960s. More than 3,000 children across the region are having lessons in them, figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show.”

Parents put kids at risk over seatbelts - Manchester Evening News 01/09/09
“Shocking figures obtained by the M.E.N. under the Freedom of Information Act show that 695 drivers were given fixed penalty notices by Greater Manchester Police over 18 months for not belting up children under three properly. And a further 832 people were fined £30 for failing to make a child aged between three and 14 wear rear seatbelts.”

The Met set: cops' £12.5m air fare bill - thelondonpaper 24/08/09
“Scotland Yard racked up a £12.5m bill flying officers around the world in just three years. Thousands of business-class trips were booked by the force to destinations such as the Caribbean and the Far East, with the most expensive being £9,300, a freedom of information­ request showed.”


Record level of student hardship funding, say LibDems - The Herald 30/08/09
“The number of students applying for financial help because of hardship has reached a new high, it was claimed yesterday. A total of 14,386 students at Scottish universities applied for hardship funding in the academic year 2008-09… The figure, obtained by the Lib Dems through Freedom of Information, is an increase of more than 1000 from 2007-08, where there was a previous record high of 13,283 applications.”

Ministers go off the rails - Daily and Sunday Express 29/08/09
“Statistics released under Freedom of Information laws show half of Alex Salmond’s 16 ministers snubbed rail trips in favour of being ferried around in luxury limos. Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson has used the train more than all his SNP colleagues put together, according to the figures. But eight ministers, including cabinet secretaries Fiona Hyslop, Nicola Sturgeon and Kenny ­MacAskill, did not use the railways at all in 2008/9.”

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