FOI disclosure stories April 13 – 19

What recession? Councils offer ‘bizarre non-jobs’ including roller disco coach and toothbrush adviser for infants – The Daily Mail 19/04/09
“A roller disco coach, a part-time toothbrush adviser for infants and a ceremonial sword bearer are just some of the ‘non-jobs’ offered by councils across Britain. Other roles which have come under criticism from the Taxpayer’s Alliance include trampoline coaches, skate park attendants, flower arrangers, a ‘befriending co-ordinator’; and a ‘street football co-ordinator’, which pays £19,000-a-year.”

U.K. Government Free to Lend RBS, Lloyds Stock to Short-Sellers
– Bloomberg 17/04/09
“U.K. Financial Investments Ltd., which oversees the government’s shareholdings in banks, is allowed to lend out the stock to short-sellers, who were only months ago attacked by politicians for destabilizing the banks. UKFI, which owns 70 percent of Royal Bank of Scotland Plc and has a 43 percent holding in Lloyds Banking Group Plc, legally may loan stock, according to information obtained by Bloomberg News under a Freedom of Information Act request. UKFI said it hasn’t so far loaned any of its shares, and has no current plans to do so.”

Superbug payments under spotlight – Channel 4 16/04/09
“Millions of pounds were paid out in patient compensation claims involving allegations about hospital superbugs in the past five years, Channel 4 News online has found. The payout figures, obtained from the NHS under freedom of information (FoI) laws, reveal the number of settlements made to victims when MRSA or C. diff allegations were included as part of their overall claim for compensation for injury.”

‘Revolving door’ for pupils who misbehave – The Times 14/04/09
“The number of pupils suspended more than ten times a year has almost tripled in the past four years. Figures indicate that there is now a “revolving door” for the worst behaved, who bounce in and out of school instead of being expelled. Last year at least 867 pupils were suspended more than ten times each, compared with 310 in 2003-04. The figures, obtained by the Tories under the Freedom of Information Act, from 125 out of 152 councils asked, suggest that up to 1,000 pupils were suspended more than ten times last year.”

Green Party calls for better dentistry services – Health Service Journal 14/04/09
“Access to NHS dentistry is down to ‘geographical accident’, the Green Party has claimed. In a report, A Green New Deal for the NHS, due to be published this Friday, it claims between 55 and 60 per cent of NHS practices are not taking on new NHS patients. Using responses to freedom of information requests, the party said some primary care trusts have no practices that are taking on new patients in their patch and access to NHS dentists varies between one and 0.25 dentists per 1,000 people.”

Overworking blamed for NHS errors – Daily Mirror 13/04/09
“Patient safety is being put at risk by overworked NHS medical staff, it has been claimed.
They made 4,000 ‘avoidable’ errors last year, according to figures obtained by the Daily Mirror. More than half of the blunders – 2,221 – were considered serious, resulting in deaths, injuries and patients being left in severe pain… The newspaper submitted Freedom of Information requests to all 172 NHS trusts to obtain details of Serious Untoward Incidents (SUIs).”

Child trafficking into Britain accelerating, figures show – Guardian 14/04/09
“Suspected victims of child trafficking from Asia, Africa and the Middle East are being smuggled through Britain’s leading ports and airports at an accelerating rate, new figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal. A total of 957 children, including more than 400 from Afghanistan and 200 from Africa, were picked up by local authorities in the eight months between April 2008 and the end of the year. The figures, obtained by the Guardian, represent a 90% increase compared to the annual rate of arrivals over the previous three years.”

Financial Services Authority shuts record number of rogue advisers
– The Times 14/04/09
“The City watchdog has banned a record number of firms that sell mortgages, pensions, investments and insurance. As the economic crisis deepened and regulators clamped down on rogue businesses, the number of financial firms forbidden to practise by the Financial Services Authority rose by more than 50 per cent in the past year. Using the Freedom of Information Act, The Times discovered that 107 firms were banned, of which one third were mortgage advisers. Many were guilty of mortgage fraud and had shown no compunction in inflating their own incomes and those of their clients.”


Birmingham hospital paid spin doctors £16k for just 20 days’ work – Birmingham Post 19/04/09
“A Birmingham hospital spent £16,000 to pay a PR company for just 20 days work to handle the fallout from a damning report. Birmingham Children’s Hospital chiefs paid two senior media consultants from LTA Communications £16,387 to protect the honour of the trust when faced with heavy criticism in a Healthcare Commission report a month ago. The money mirrors the annual salary of a junior nurse.”

MoD pays out £1m over frightened cattle – Belfast Telegraph 17/04/09
“The Ministry of Defence has paid out over £1 million to Northern Ireland farmers whose animals were frightened by low-flying aircraft in the last five years. Noise from attack aircraft and helicopters on training missions led to hundreds of claims from owners of horses, cattle and even hens, the MoD revealed. The statistics were released after a Freedom of Information request and follow concerns about activity by low flying aircraft in the Mid-Ulster area recently.”

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