FOI disclosure stories 16 -22 March 2009

Officials less than enthusiastic about identity cards – 20/03/09
“The authors of the ‘Gateway’ report, released under the Freedom of Information Act, wrote of their ‘concern’ about the response to the plans from Government agencies, departments and business. The report also identified a string of ‘important risks’ of launching the scheme, which it is now estimated will cost £4.7 billion. The report found ‘with some concern’ that the main groups which were to benefit from ID cards were not that enthusiastic after all.”

Concern as English Heritage cites Wikipedia in listing submission
– Building Design 20/03/09
“The leading authority on the work of Colin St John Wilson, Roger Stonehouse, has expressed astonishment after English Heritage submitted a Wikipedia page on the architect as part of its evidence to the government on a key listing case. Documents released to BD under Freedom of Information show that English Heritage included a print-out from the online encyclopedia alongside its official report as part of the review of Colin St John Wilson’s Hereford House — controversially stripped of its grade II status by Barbara Follett last autumn in her first major decision as architecture minister.”

Prescriptions for opioids jump following co-proxamol ban – Pulse 17/03/09
“Opioid prescriptions have jumped during the withdrawal of co-proxamol, with GPs apparently struggling to find adequate means of pain control for some patients. Prescriptions for morphine have risen by more than 40% and those for tramadol by two-thirds since co-proxamol use was first reduced in anticipation of the drug’s withdrawal. An analysis for the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, obtained by Pulse under the Freedom of Information Act, reveals prescriptions for co-proxamol plummeted from 835 million in 2004 – the year prior to legislation on its withdrawal – to 121 million in 2007.”


Unpopular parking plan sparked by single request – Your Local Guardian 21/03/09
“A ‘Disastrous’ effort to block residents’ drives to create four extra parking spaces in three Twickenham roads was sparked by one person’s request to the council. Following a request under the Freedom of Information Act, Richmond Council revealed it spent £1,600 on consultation fees on a scheme that would have put spaces in front of four driveways in Beauchamp Road. Residents spent their own time and money to fight off the unpopular plans.”

Westminster council chiefs £84,000 sports car spend – London Informer 20/03/09
“Company cars – including a BMW, Jaguar and a Mazda – for Town Hall bosses are costing Westminster taxpayers’ tens of thousands of pounds each year, it has been revealed. Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act shows the council spends £84,000 to lease a fleet of 26 cars for top City Hall managers, raising questions over council spending as the downturn hits taxpayers. Westminster and City of London Liberal Democrats, who put in the FOI request, have asked the council to explain why it needs to pay for senior staff to have sports cars when the borough is well served by public transport.”

One operation each day is cancelled at acute hospital – West Cumberland Times & Star, Cumbria 19/03/09
“About one person per day has been turned away from surgery at the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven, figures have revealed. The details, released under the Freedom of Information Act, requested by the Times & Star, show that last year 348 operations were cancelled at the hospital, with 67 not going ahead in January and February this year.”

Fouling fine figures are embarrassing – This is Cheshire 19/03/09
“Warrington Borough Council has issued only four fixed penalty notices for dog fouling in the three years since setting up a dedicated unit, it has been revealed. The environmental enforcement unit was given powers in 2006 to issue £50 on-the-spot fines to anyone who fails to clean up after their dog in a public place.”

Harrow and Wembley tube lines top refunds list
– Harrow Observer 19/03/09
“In the latter half of last year more passengers were paid refunds for journeys delayed by late-running trains on the Metropolitan and Jubilee lines than on any other underground lines. Figures obtained by the Harrow Observer under the Freedom of Information Act show Tube bosses doled out £118,447 for 26,273 claims relating to the Met line between June and November. Jubilee Line passengers received paybacks totalling £73,907 for 19,369 claims in the same period.”

Crucial Times investigation lifts the lid on health claims – Bexley Times 19/03/09
Since April last year, bosses at A Picture of Health (APoH), a health committee, refused to provide the clinicians’ names who agreed with their plans to axe an A&E and maternity unit, claiming it would breach their confidentiality. But a year on, and only when they were referred to the Information Commissioner’s Office, they finally admitted a record of attendees was not even made. 

This revelation throws fresh doubt that the proposals, which included stripping (QMS) of it’s A&E, maternity unit and its in-patient paediatrics unit, were clinically not financially driven.

Dover’s 10 year housing list wait – This is Kent 19/03/09
“People on the Dover District Council housing list could face waits of up to a decade before they are offered a home. The shocking figure has been revealed to the Dover Express under the Freedom of Information Act. The district has 1,677 homes, both council and private, laying empty and 3,142 people on the housing list either waiting for a home or a transfer to a different property. But those people could be a long way from getting a property.”

Learning to cope in 90 tongues! – Bradford Telegraph & Argus 19/03/09
“More than 70 per cent of children at nearly a quarter of mainstream primary schools in Bradford do not speak English as their first language, according to the latest figures. An A to Z of 90-plus different languages are mother tongues of some 16,623 pupils at Bradford’s 40 most linguistically-diverse primaries, according to figures obtained by the Telegraph & Argus in a Freedom of Information inquiry.”

£6,000 Health trust promotional video pulled – News Guardian 19/03/09
“A hospital trust spent £6,000 creating a video promoting its plans for a new emergency hospital, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed. The FOI submitted to Northumberland Healthcare Trust revealed that its online ‘Experience the future’ video cost £6,000 to produce. The response also revealed that one of the patients filmed and interviewed in the video, named ‘John’ was not a patient, but was actually a member staff working in the trust’s communications department.”

Alcoholics pocket £10m
– Manchester Evening News 18/03/09
“More than 4,000 alcoholics are claiming full-time disability benefits in Greater Manchester – landing taxpayers with a £10m annual bill… They show a total of 4,220 people were claiming Incapacity Benefit (IB) or Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA), where alcoholism was listed as the main `disabling condition’. The weekly bill to the taxpayer for benefits paid out across the region is between £250,835 and £373,490. Disability benefits are state handouts aimed at those who can’t work because of disability or illness and are worth up to £84.50 a week. They both unlock further benefits, such as support with council tax and housing bills.”

£1m health spend on consultants – EveningNews24 18/03/09
“Health bosses in Norfolk and Waveney were slammed last night for spending more than £1m a year on outside consultants, including Bupa, lawyers and management consultants. NHS Norfolk, has paid Bupa Commissioning £82,000 for “organisational development, including team coaching and masterclasses”. NHS Norfolk has 270 of its own staff, plus some 3,000 in its provider arm, Norfolk Community Healthcare.”

Hospital ‘red alert’ bed pressures shock
– The Citizen 18/03/09
“East Lancashire hospitals are increasingly declaring a state of ‘red alert’, despite introducing a range of measures designed to ease the pressure on beds. Figures obtained by the Lancashire Telegraph under the Freedom of Information Act show that 55 per cent of the hospital’s time since August has been spent on red alaert – defined by the hospital as ‘extreme pressure’ for beds.”

Big drop in migrant jobseekers to area
– 18/03/09
“The number of eastern Europeans rushing to work in North Lincolnshire has plunged by almost a third, new figures have revealed. Statistics, released by the UK Border Agency, show the number of immigrants registered to work in the county last year plunged by almost 30 per cent, from 645 to 495.”

Police interpreters cost £20,000 a month – Evening Star 18/03/09
“Interpreters for suspects, victims and witnesses have cost Suffolk police nearly £1.25million over the past eight years… In the last 11 months £219,860 – an average of just over £19,900 per month – has been spent on interpreters according to Suffolk Constabulary’s reply to a Freedom of Information request by the EADT.”

Ambulance control room errors shock
– Evening Gazette 17/03/09
“A Freedom of Information request by Middlesbrough Council has highlighted 254 cases in which ambulances were misdirected between October 2006 and July 2008. An investigation by the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) has revealed that 80 of the mishaps were down to human error, 97 were caused by the ambulance satellite navigation system, and 66 were due to a system error with the command and control system.”

Breakdowns in police radio – BBCi 16/03/09
“A new police communication system has been plagued by breakdowns, including during some of the biggest emergencies in Devon and Cornwall. ‘Airwave’ failed on 93 occasions between 2005 and 2008, according to figures released under a Freedom of Information request… The force admitted problems had occurred in remote areas or when the volume of calls had overwhelmed the system.”

Schools tarnished by 5,000 racist incidents – Yorkshire Post 16/03/09
“More than 5,000 racist incidents have been reported in the region’s schools in the past two years – with primary schools the worse affected, according to figures obtained by the Yorkshire Post. In the last two academic years, Yorkshire primary schools recorded 3,018 incidents while secondary schools reported just over 2,000. Statistics obtained under the Freedom of Information Act also show that more than 700 pupils have been excluded from school because of their racist behaviour.”

Amazing variety of interests declared by police officers
– Wales Online 16/03/09
“Barbers, film extras, magicians and carpet cleaners – just some of the jobs police officers in Wales do when they’re off duty. The Western Mail can today reveal some of the more unusual part-time careers pursed by the nation’s law enforcement officers when they’re not pounding the beat. Using the Freedom of Information Act, we have discovered officers, who start on £21,000 and can earn six figures at the top of their profession, fill their spare time earning extra cash in a wide variety of roles.”

Criminal convictions of teaching applicants – EveningNews24 16/03/09
“People convicted of growing cannabis, committing grievous bodily harm and stealing motor vehicles have all applied to become teachers in the county over the last two years, it can be revealed. The convictions were uncovered following a Freedom of Information request to the Criminal Records Bureau, a Home Office agency tasked with providing information on people who apply for jobs working with children or vulnerable adults. The list for 2008 showed out of the 2,158 disclosure applications for the position of teacher in the Norfolk area, 29 people had criminal convictions.”


City splashes out on water – The Edinburgh Evening News 21/03/09
“Council chiefs spent £10,000 on bottled water last year, according to details released under freedom of information laws. The outlay comes despite bottled water being banned from councillors’ meetings in May last year. The bulk of the money spent was buying bottled water for the council’s own restaurants and school tuck shops.”

Cancer patients ‘being left to die’ – Dumfries and Galloway Standard 19/03/09
“NHS bosses have been accused of ‘leaving cancer patients to die’ after figures revealed treatment was turned down in half of specialist cases. According to a report by the Rarer Cancers Forum, Dumfries and Galloway NHS has the joint worst rate in Scotland for approving treatment for uncommon types of the disease. Officials from the charity submitted a Freedom of Information request to all Scottish NHS boards and over a two-year period found that 50 per cent of the exceptional cases locally were approved for funded treatment.”

The most violent school in Scotland – Central Fife Times 18/03/09
“Benarty Primary School is the most violent in Scotland, according to figures released this week. In the 2007/08 school year, 29 assaults by children were recorded, a third of which were against staff. The shocking statistics, released under freedom of information laws, puts the Lochore primary top of a list of Scottish schools with the highest number of exclusions. Camstradden Primary in Glasgow was second with 24 exclusions in 2007/08.”

Three Rs concern in city schools – BBCi 16/03/09
“Figures revealing poor basic literacy levels at schools in Aberdeen have been condemned as alarming. At half the city’s schools, a majority of children failed to meet benchmark standards in writing by the age of 14. The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, also showed that in a quarter of schools, most pupils failed to make the grade in reading.”

Artworks loaned to UK Government return to Scotland – The Herald 16/03/09
“More than 100 works of art that used to be on display in government residences in London have been returned to Scotland. Eighty works of art owned by the National Galleries of Scotland, previously held at the Lord Chancellor’s Office in Westminster, and 24 that used to be on display at Dover House, the Whitehall home of the Scottish Office, have now been returned since 2006 [reveals an inquiry under the Freedom of Information act to the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) about the status of loaned art].”

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