FOI disclosure stories 9 – 15 March 2009

2m have ‘spy devices’ in their bins – 15/03/09
“Figures released using the Freedom of Information Act show 42 local authorities have installed the ‘spy’ devices in rubbish containers to record how much residents are throwing away. Councils insist the information collected by the microchips, which measure the weight of rubbish placed in bins, will be used to educate households about cutting waste, targeting those who are the worst at recycling… The figure show two million households now have bins fitted with microchips.”

Museums lose nearly 200 artifacts – 14/03/09
“Details obtained under the freedom of information act show that museums including the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the Imperial War Museum and the Royal Armouries have lost 198 items since 2000. Items that have disappeared from the museums include a Victoria Cross (VC) medal belonging to one of the Second World War’s most decorated soldiers, dozens of antique rifles and pistols, a painting worth £200,000 and a collection of 14
microscopes worth £157,000. The museums’ losses total £501,995.”

UK sees influx of foreign IT workers despite job losses, figures reveal – ComputerWeekly 13/03/09
“Thousands of UK job losses in IT coincided with a massive influx of IT workers from outside the European Union in 2008, figures have revealed. The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) got the data from the Home Office through a freedom of information request. Over 35,000 UK work permits were issued to non-EU IT workers in 2008 compared with about 13,000 in 2000 at the peak of the boom. APSCo said the government’s immigration points system was failing to restrict non-European workers to those with the most sought after skills.”

Blair aides did know Britain was NOT in imminent danger of attack from Saddam – The Daily Mail 13/03/09
“Secret emails suggesting that Britain was duped into war in Iraq were released yesterday, renewing calls for a full-scale public inquiry into the conflict. Documents released under freedom of information laws show Government officials pressed intelligence chiefs to strip out caveats about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. Agents complained that the Government’s infamous dossier making the case for war suggested Saddam’s biological warfare programme was more advanced than they believed to be the case. They also privately mocked claims about Iraq’s nuclear programme, joking that atomic specialists the document suggested had been assembled in Iraq must be ‘Dr Frankenstein’.”

Fire crews ‘lifting obese patients daily’ – Guardian Unlimited 13/03/09
“Firefighters are being called about once a day by the NHS to lift and carry obese people whom staff have found too heavy to move, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act. Official figures show that fire crews in England have been deployed 1,784 times in the last five years to assist with grossly overweight people, weighing up to 42 stone. Some had become stuck in their bath or car, or had been unable to get up after falling, or had experienced a medical problem such as a heart attack.”

The real story of Britain’s most famous hangman – The Independent 12/03/09
“He is remembered as a man of principle. But secret papers unearthed by Cahal Milmo show that Albert Pierrepoint was in fact a money-grabbing fantasist… documents obtained by The Independent under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that he in fact resigned with an angry tirade at the “meanness” of his employer. The papers reveal the full story of Pierrepoint’s sudden departure from the post he held for 24 years in an atmosphere of mutual dislike and recrimination.”

Police criminal convictions exposed – BBC 11/03/09
“More than 1,000 serving police officers in Britain have criminal convictions, the Liberal Democrats have reported. More than half of the 1,063 convictions relate to speeding or other motoring offences; 77 officers have convictions for violence and 96 for dishonesty… The figures cover only those forces in England, Scotland and Wales which responded.”

GPs defy BMA guidance over incentive schemes to cut referrals – Pulse 10/03/09
“GPs are defying GPC guidance en masse and renewing their participation in controversial referral incentive schemes, Pulse has learned. The GPC has urged GPs not to take part in any scheme containing ‘an incentive, target-based element’, warning that GPs risk breaching GMC rules of conduct. But figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that 141 of the 148 practices in Hampshire have signed up to both components of a target-based of the scheme for 2009/10. The Hampshire scheme offers practices a payment of £2,400 for an average-sized practices for a three month clinical review of referrals, and a further £4,000 for meeting targets for restricting growth in referrals.”

England’s dirtiest care homes ‘must be shut down’ – Lib Dems – 10/03/09
“A hard core of care homes across England have repeatedly failed to meet basic standards in hygiene and infection control, and a handful of homes have failed inspections four or more times in three years, research by the Liberal Democrats has revealed. The information, uncovered through Freedom of Information requests to the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI), revealed that 169 homes had recorded major failures in unannounced inspections, 28 of them on more than one occasion.”

Big rise in cannabis ‘factories’ – BBC 10/03/09
“A big increase in the number of ‘cannabis factories’ discovered by police has been revealed. Figures show rises since 2004 of 174 to 672 finds in the West Midlands, zero to 53 in North Wales, and zero to seven for Scotland’s Northern Constabulary. Thirty police forces in England, Scotland and Wales responded to Freedom of Information requests from BBC News. Organised criminal gangs, many from south-east Asia, are responsible for the rise, police believe.”

NPfIT costs include £3m on hotels and business travel – ComputerWeekly 09/03/09
“Contracted costs of the NHS’s IT programme include more than £1m with a hotel reservations agency, nearly £2m with a business travel company, and £150m with consultancies – for two of the six years the scheme has been running. The figures released by the Department of Health under the Freedom of Information include contracts worth more than £2m with three public relations firms – and a further £30,000 with a press cuttings agency. The released documents show that central costs of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) are substantial and rising, despite at least four years of delay in the roll out of e-records, which is the main part of the scheme.”


Bonuses of £100,000 paid to council chiefs
– Kent Messenger
“Bonuses of more than £100,000 were paid to Kent County Council’s top officers last year, we can exclusively reveal. The council has confirmed its highest paid officials, including chief executive Peter Gilroy, together received £102,247 in bonuses in 2007-2008, on top of their six figure salaries. That equates to an average of £14,000 each, more than is earned in a year by the lowest-paid staff in KCC’s pay scheme. The details of the bonuses, released to the KM Group under the Freedom of Information Act, are likely to fuel a continuing political row over town hall “fat cat” pay.”

Number of Croydon police crashes revealed for last year – This is Croydon Today 14/03/09
“The number of police crashes in Croydon has dropped slightly over the past 12 months [according to the figures obtained by the Advertiser under the Freedom of Information Act]. It shows in 2008 there were 125 collisions involving a police vehicle, 11 down on the previous year. Out of this number police were responsible for 50 of the accidents – nearly one a week. A total of 90 of the crashes happened while the police were NOT on an emergency 999 call.”

Chorley police station thefts – The Chorley Citizen
“Property and cash stolen from police stations in Chorley accounted for half of all thefts from police premises in Lancashire last year. According to information obtained by the Chorley Citizen under the Freedom of Information Act, three of the six reported theft crimes in 2008 at Lancashire Constabulary stations occurred in the town.”

NSPCC condemns holding of thousands of Cheshire teenagers’ DNA – Chester Chronicle 13/03/09
“Thousands of Cheshire teenagers have their DNA held on the police database. Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show 2,001 10 to 15-year-olds and 3,303 youths aged 16 to 17 have been swabbed by Cheshire police. The database includes people who have been arrested but not charged, those who have volunteered their DNA to eliminate themselves from enquiries and DNA taken at crime scenes.”

Developer blasts EH’s move to list barracks chapel – Building Design 12/03/09
“The developer behind Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners’ Chelsea Barracks scheme in west London has launched an all-out attack on English Heritage’s attempt to list a Victorian chapel at the centre of the site. Correspondence obtained under freedom of information provisions shows that DP9, the planning consultant acting on behalf of developer Project Blue, has attempted to discredit EH’s grade II listing recommendation, claiming it was made in reaction to development plans rather than on the merits of the building. The allegation has been strongly denied by EH, which said it was ‘entirely inaccurate’.”

Health service security blunders exposed – Gloucester Citizen 12/03/09
“A catalogue of health service security blunders, in which dozens of confidential patient details were lost or mislaid, has been revealed for the first time. A Freedom of Information request has uncovered 34 separate incidents in Gloucestershire on which patient data has gone missing since December 2007. The list of errors includes the loss of a laptop containing details of 50 medical trial patients…”

£18k clean-up bill for city fountain – South Wales Evening Post 11/03/09
“Litterbugs and booze-fuelled pranksters are continuing to cost taxpayers money by fouling Swansea’s city centre fountain. All sorts of muck and gubbins such as food containers, beer cans and traffic cones have been fished out by the contractor responsible for the fountain’s maintenance. The bill for this work at Castle Square last year was £18,000. The cost was revealed in a Freedom of Information response to the Post.”

Hopes new crisis centre will mean fewer rapists walk free in Bristol – This is Bristol 11/03/09
“Avon and Somerset Constabulary was blasted last year for one of the lowest rape conviction rates in the country, and recent statistics for Bristol show only a minuscule improvement. The rape conviction rates for 2006 (the latest detailed figures available) were obtained by national equality body the Fawcett Society after a Freedom of Information request. They showed rape conviction rates had fallen in 18 out of 24 police forces, to an average of 6.1 per cent across England and Wales. But the figure for Avon and Somerset was just 4.2 per cent.”

Crime victims’ data lost in post
– BBC 11/03/09
“The personal details of more than 2,300 crime victims were lost in the post by Gwent Police, BBC Wales has discovered. A CD went missing in May 2007, but the force said those affected were not told because it was decided their details could not be accessed. Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the four Welsh forces also uncovered cases of staff using police national computers without authorisation.”

Norfolk Police lose £4,000 worth of radios – EveningNews24 10/03/09
“Almost £4,000 worth of state-of-the-art radios have been lost by police in Norfolk over the past five years, the Evening News can reveal.
A Freedom of Information request revealed 14 Motorola MTH800 handsets, which cost £280 each and are a key part of the force’s Airwave communication system, have been reported as lost since 2004.”

Haringey: agency staff fill one-third of posts
– Community Care 10/03/09
“Nearly one-third of social work posts at Haringey Council’s children’s services are filled by agency staff, according to figures obtained by Community Care. The statistics, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, showed that on 31 January 2009 agency staff filled 62 of 204 children and families social work posts and nine were vacant.”

Pest team called in three times at Alhambra – Bradford Telegraph & Argus 09/03/09
“Pest controllers have had to deal with mice at Bradford’s showpiece Alhambra Theatre three times since last August. Dozens of schools, as well as Bradford Council offices, leisure centres and libraries have had to be cleared of unwanted rodents and insects in the last two years.”

Complaints against Southampton taxi drivers soar – Daily Echo 09/03/09
“Complaints about taxi drivers in Southampton have more than doubled in the past two years, the Daily Echo can reveal. Overcharging fares, bad driving and rude behaviour were the most common cause of complaint against 49 drivers last year. However, a Freedom of Information request showed that not a single driver had their licence stripped by Southampton City Council in 2008.”


New Forth bridge prepartions left in disarray by government U-turn – Sunday Herald 14/03/09
“Essential preparatory work for construction of the Forth road bridge project is running at least five months behind schedule, because of the Scottish government’s abrupt abandonment of its original £4.2 billion design, the Sunday Herald has learned. Documents obtained under freedom of information legislation from the Scottish Government agency Transport Scotland reveal that the delay, caused by the government’s decision last year to redesign the proposed bridge to slash £2bn in costs from the project, meant that completed designs due to be seen by the public last September were still not complete by January this year.”

Team on trail of benefit fraudsters – Dundee Evening Telegraph 11/03/09
“A specialist team of Jobcentre investigators is probing around 150 allegations of benefit fraud in Dundee, Tayside and Fife every month. Already this financial year sanctions including court action and fines have been brought against 350 people, according to figures obtained under Freedom of Information… Benefit fraud is estimated to cost the UK economy upwards of £800 million a year.”

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