FOI Disclosure Stories 18 – 24 May 2009

Fraudsters face UK’s extremely thin blue line – The Independent 24/05/09
“Sections of Britain’s police force are woefully ill-equipped to deal with fraud, according to figures obtained by the Independent on Sunday under the Freedom of Information Act. Despite estimates suggesting that the UK can expect as much as £20bn worth of fraudulent activity this year, a number of constabularies retain no specialist fraud officers.”

BBC’s bonus bonanza: Programme budgets and jobs are cut, but staff still share £17m rewards – The Daily Mail 22/05/09
“The BBC paid its staff £17.5million in bonuses last year as Britain lurched into its worst economic crisis for a generation. The reward payments to 9,777 of the corporation’s nearly 21,000 staff also coincided with hundreds of job cuts and budgets being squeezed on many of its shows. The total is down from previous years – in 2006/7 the BBC dished out £20million in bonuses – but critics are amazed that given the bleak economic situation, this year’s payments remain so high.”

Four schools ‘hit by arsonists every day’
– 22/05/09
“Schools across Britain are hit by an average of four arson attacks every day, according to new figures. Police were called to deal with deliberate fires almost 3,000 times in the last two years, it is revealed. The Conservatives, who obtained the data using the Freedom of Information act, said many blazes were started by pupils. They are calling for teachers to be given more power to search children for suspicious items.”

Sudden baby boom puts strain on maternity services
– The Times 21/05/09
“Two thirds of NHS trusts are unable to cover the cost of providing maternity services as the birthrate rises, with little evidence that £330 million of extra funding is improving care for mothers and babies, The Times can disclose. Chronic underfunding of midwifery and obstetrics care has produced deficits that run into millions of pounds in some trusts… The figures, obtained by The Times under the Freedom of Information Act, come as statistics show that the birthrate is at its highest level for 36 years.”

IR35 tax rules bring in just £1.5m per year – 21/05/09
“Lobby group the Professional Contractors’ Group (PCG) has urged the government to scrap its controversial freelance tax rule, IR35, after it was revealed the regulation adds a paltry £1.5m each year to Treasury coffers. The PCG used Freedom of Information rules to uncover that IR35 had raised just £9.2m in tax for the years 2002/3 to 2007/8. Initially the government had expected to raise £220m annually through the rules.”

FOI reveals assaults on mixed wards
– Channel 4 21/05/09
“New research reveals nearly two thirds of sexual assaults in hospitals happen in units where there are mixed wards. Freedom of information requests submitted to all NHS hospital trusts in England by More 4 News found 21 of the 33 attacks took place in hospitals where men and women are treated together, despite government promises to scrap mixed wards.”

Ministry of Defence admits to further radioactive leaks from submarines
– Guardian Unlimited 18/05/09
“Radioactive waste has leaked from Britain’s nuclear submarines nine times in the past 12 years, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has admitted. Two of the leaks – including one at Devonport near Plymouth two months ago – had not been revealed until today. Confirmation of the leaks raises new questions about the MoD’s safety record, which has been coming under increasing scrutiny since HMS Vanguard, a British submarine armed with Trident nuclear missiles, collided with a nuclear-armed French submarine, Le Triomphant, under the Atlantic in February.”


The shocking truth about child abuse in Ulster – Belfast Telegraph 22/05/09
“Disturbing details of children being seriously injured and even killed through abuse in Northern Ireland are exposed by the Belfast Telegraph today. The case reviews — obtained through a Freedom of Information request — have already resulted in the Children’s Commissioner calling for an urgent meeting with the Health Minister when she was informed of the shocking content. The cases highlighted today include a six and a half month old baby girl found to have a fractured arm and leg when she died, a boy whose wrist was injured when he was tied up by his foster father and 61 recorded injuries to six children in one family.”


Agency staff bill rockets under SNP – The Press and Journal 21/05/09
“The Scottish Government came under fire last night after it emerged that its wage bill for employment agency staff had rocketed by nearly £500,000 in 12 months. Figures released under freedom of information rules showed that the SNP spent £5,023,471 on 668 temporary staff in 2008, up from £4,571,565 the previous year, when 555 people were employed. The government has spent about £1,472,320 on employing 162 staff so far this year.”

Sir Fred and the Case of Smashed Windows
– The Times 18/05/09
“Despite the best efforts of 18 officers, a police dog, and several forensic specialists, the Case of the Smashed Windows — the Edinburgh home of Sir Fred Goodwin, the former RBS chief executive — remains unsolved. The details of the inquiry were released yesterday in response to a Freedom of Information request, and showed a level of commitment from the Lothian and Borders Police that informed observers say has rarely been applied in recent month to other minor acts of vandalism in the city.”

Time delays in serious trials throw doubt on court reforms
– The Scottish Herald 18/05/09
“Hundreds of high court cases are being significantly delayed despite recent reforms to the system which were supposed to have solved the problem. Senior advocates say it is now impossible to get trials to start within the statutory time limit and that victims and innocent suspects are being forced to wait too long to get justice. Figures obtained by The Herald under the Freedom of Information Act show that more than half of the 800 indictment cases in the past year were delayed beyond the 12-month time limit for someone in custody.”

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