FOI disclosure stories March 23 – April 5

Council plumber paid £22,000 bonus – The Times 04/04/09
“Taxpayers have footed the bill for more than £60m of council bonuses to staff ranging from chief executives to manual labourers including plumbers, gardeners and binmen. Under a Freedom of Information Act request, it was disclosed that two of the biggest recipients include an electrician at Derby council paid £25,000 in bonuses and a plumber at Kirklees council, West Yorkshire, who received £22,000, more than doubling his £20,000 salary.”

The 200mph train, a snip at £39bn – The Times 04/04/09
“Lord Adonis, the transport minister, is studying plans for a £39 billion high-speed rail network that could see 200mph, French-style TGV trains almost halving journey times between London, northern England and Scotland. The trains would cut journey times to Manchester to one hour 22 minutes and Glasgow to two hours 42 minutes. Double-deck models carrying up to 545 people will be used to relieve congestion on the busiest parts of the network. The plans being considered by Adonis are detailed in seven reports released under the Freedom of Information Act.”

Was Gerry Adams complicit over hunger strikers?
– The Times 04/04/09
“Papers suggest IRA snubbed a conciliatory offer from Margaret Thatcher to ensure Sinn Fein by-election win to Westminster… They [papers released to The Sunday Times under the Freedom of Information Act] reveal that in July 1981, halfway through the hunger strike that claimed 10 lives, Thatcher not only authorised secret communications with the IRA, she was also willing to offer prisoners the right to wear their own clothes and agree to other key demands in defiance of her previous policy… In a statement released to The Sunday Times, the Irish Republican Socialist party, the INLA’s political wing, said: ‘Both the then INLA army council and the INLA prisoners’ OC have stated that if they had been made aware of the content of these developments at that time, they would have ordered the INLA prisoners to end their hunger strike.’”

Whitehall demanded BAA probe – The Times 04/04/09
“Whitehall officials asked Merrill Lynch, the investment bank, to investigate the ‘robustness’ of BAA’s finances before Christmas after a slump in the the airport operator’s bonds. The Merrill Lynch report, revealed in papers released to The Sunday Times under the Freedom of Information Act, also covered Ferrovial, the Spanish group that is BAA’s controlling shareholder… Disclosure of official concern over BAA’s finances will add to City fears over the company and increase speculation that it may need to raise fresh debt or equity. Some transport experts believe the group may struggle with the billions in capital spending that are planned for Heathrow, including funds for a controversial third runway.”

Parents of children with autism face postcode lottery – 03/04/09
“Parents of children with autism face a postcode lottery when it comes to the quality of services available to their child, according to new research from TreeHouse (, the national charity for autism education. A Freedom of Information request revealed that the average age of diagnosis ranges massively depending on where you live, from under 3 years old in some areas to as old as 7 years in others. Experts agree that diagnosis before 3 years is vital in giving children access to the right education early, which can make a dramatic difference to a child realising their potential. Forty per cent of local authorities had no information at all on the average diagnosis age in their area.”

The £40m Beeb boob
– The Sun 02/04/09
“The BBC is still spending obscene amounts on hotels and flights despite pleading poverty and sacking hundreds of staff, The Sun can reveal. Bosses blew £40million on rooms and air travel last year — when it also fired 600 workers. More than £24.5million went on hotels and £15million on flights, figures obtained under the Freedom of Information act revealed… It has sacked 7,200 staff in four years, frozen wages and axed bonuses in a bid to save £2billion by 2013.”

Migrants ‘twice as likely to be killed at work’ – Personnel Today 01/04/09
“Migrant workers employed in the construction industry are twice as likely to die at work compared to their British counterparts, a report has found. A freedom of information request to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that 12 migrant workers died in the construction industry in 2007-08 – representing 17% of total fatalities in the sector, despite migrants only making up 8% of the workforce. The research carried out by the Centre for Corporate Accountability (CCA), in association with employment law firm Irwin Mitchell, found the deaths represented a six-fold increase in the number who died at work in 2002-03.”

Government axes promise of extra train carriages – The Times 29/03/09
“Overcrowding will worsen on several of Britain’s busiest rail lines because the Government has quietly cancelled plans for more than 300 additional carriages… The Government will save about £70 million a year from the decision, which reverses a commitment in the rail White Paper published in July 2007. The network’s most overcrowded trains have more than 70 people standing for every 100 sitting, according to Department for Transport figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.”

Councils used spy powers 10,000 times
– The Times 26/03/09
“Surveillance powers originally designed to counter the threat of terrorism and safeguard national security have been used by local councils more than 10,000 times over the past five years – often for “crimes” as minor as littering, it emerged today. Details disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act…The findings are based on a survey of 182 district and unitary councils in England and Wales which responded to a Freedom of Information request from the Lib Dems… The survey showed that Ripa powers have been used on 10,288 occasions since 2004, although just 9 per cent of those inquiries led to a successful prosecution, caution, or fixed penalty notice.”

Number of students achieving three A-grade A-levels double in a decade – The Daily Mail 24/03/09
“The number of sixth-formers gaining three As in their A-levels has doubled in a decade, according to figures published yesterday. Just days after Cambridge University announced that a hat-trick of As was no longer enough to win a place, it emerged that one in eight students are now achieving the feat. Last year, 12.1 per cent of students achieved a trio of As – more than 31,000 – against just 6.1 per cent when Labour took office in 1997, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.”

More than a quarter of England’s primary schools have no male teachers
– 23/03/09
“The figures are despite a multi-million pound Government campaign to encourage men back into what is now seen as a “feminine” career. Men also tend to shun working with younger children over fears they will be accused of paedophilia, but experts say it is vital for boys – many of whom do not have a father present at home – to have positive male role models as they grow up… The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show that more than a quarter of all the 17,357 primary schools in England do not have a single male teacher.”

Judgement call – BBC 23/03/09
“… the BBC has learned that in the last two years the number of hung juries – where no verdict is reached – has more than doubled. Figures obtained from Her Majesty’s Courts Service under a Freedom of Information request show that in 2006 there were 52 hung juries in England and Wales. In 2007, that figure had risen by a third to 68. Yet last year, there were 116 hung juries – an increase of 70 per cent, and more than double the figure just two years previously… with the broadly accepted figure of a crown court trial costing up to £80,000 per day, this still means that hung juries cost the taxpayer nearly £30m last year – and that does not include the cost of any retrial.”


Anger as 20,000 meals thrown out by Southern Trust
– Tyrone Times 31/03/09
“Hospitals in the Southern Trust area threw out almost 20,000 untouched patient meals last year, new figures have revealed. Documents released by the Trust reveal how 55 meals were wasted on average every day, costing the Trust tens of thousands of pounds. The figures were disclosed to this newspaper after a Freedom of Information request and follow reports in recent months that health trusts are facing increased financial pressure.”

Metric Martyrs uncover MEP’s peppercorn rent – The Northern Echo 23/03/09
“An MEP is facing a rent rise after Eurosceptic campaigners discovered he has been paying a peppercorn rent for his office for at least 18 years. Labour MEP Stephen Hughes is paying Durham County Council £1,642 for his constituency office in County Hall, Durham City, which is inclusive of furniture, heating and electricity. In 1991, the rent on Mr Hughes’ office was set at £1,000-a-year by the land and property sub-committee of the Labour-run authority, with an inflationary increase every year, but it has not been reviewed since.”


‘Patient care could be hit by new target’ – The Press and Journal 01/04/09
“Patient care will suffer if NHS Grampian is to meet a new summer target limiting the amount of time junior doctors work, it was claimed last night. Figures released under freedom of information legislation show that just a third of junior doctors work 48 hours a week as will be required under the European working time directive come August… Figures obtained by the Labour Party show Grampian is just 34% compliant with the new hours – the worst in Scotland. The current working time limit is 56 hours.”

Michelin restaurants failed food-hygiene inspections – The Times 29/03/09
“Some of Scotland’s leading restaurants have failed to meet basic food hygiene standards, according to the latest inspection reports. Award-winning establishments across the country were found to have breached food hygiene regulations and ordered to improve their cleansing practices during official visits last year and in 2007. Failures noted in the food safety reports, obtained by The Sunday Times under freedom of information legislation, included evidence of insects, mice and dirty, crumbling kitchens.”

Police child welfare shock – Dundee Evening Telegraph 27/03/09
“Around 10 children every day in Tayside are referred to social workers by police concerned for their welfare, shock new figures have revealed. Officers across the three force areas — Dundee, Angus and Perth and Kinross — filled out in excess of 6000 child concern reports in the period between January 2007 and August of last year… A child concern report can be completed by any police officer that attends an incident and believes a child to be at risk.”

1 thought on “FOI disclosure stories March 23 – April 5”

  1. On the BBC story, I’m not sure what the fuss is about. Yes £40m is a lot of money. However:

    – does it include the hotels for journalists working away from home both in this country and overseas? ditto the flight number

    – Its £40m out of a BBC budget of around £3bn. Not huge.

    This feels like yet another “lets yell about a big number” story without checking either its scale or what the money is actually spent on. Its not as if the papers have highlighted a single case of actual profligate spending in a hotel by a named individual.

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