FOI Disclosure Stories 4 – 10 May 2009

NHS spending on management consultants is ‘shocking’ – Royal College of Nursing 10/05/09
“The NHS spent £350 million on external management consultants in the last financial year. More than £273 million of this was not related to direct patient care and equates to the cost of 330 fully staffed medical wards, each with 28 beds. The RCN has obtained the figures after questioning 240 NHS organisations in England under the Freedom of Information Act.”

Shoot to kill, Britain’s answer to massacre at Munich – The Independent 09/05/09
“In the wake of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, military commanders gave soldiers carte blanche to shoot hostages should nuclear weapons be the target of terrorists… In Britain, the atrocity struck such fear into the hearts of military chiefs that they believed their nuclear weapons could be the next target. A top-secret document obtained by The Independent under the Freedom of Information Act details how the Ministry of Defence made preparations for an attempt by terrorist groups including the IRA and Black September, the Palestinian extremists behind the Munich killings, to ambush military convoys carrying nuclear bombs and set off a ‘dirty-bomb’ explosion.”

£500k – what it cost to feed (and water) G20 leaders – The independent 07/05/09
“… a bill of about £500,000 for wining and dining the delegates, their partners and their aides, The Independent can reveal. The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that the cost of a series of dinners for dignitaries on the eve of the summit, crucial to boosting Mr Brown’s global standing, cost more than £66,000. The high-profile guests consumed 136 bottles of wine worth £6,000, all paid for by the taxpayer.”

Large business initiative suffers low uptake
– Accountancy Age 07/05/09
“A key corporate tax initiative, aimed at giving multinationals early certainty over their affairs, has dealt with just 18 cases in as many months. The advance agreement unit was set up by former HM Revenue & Customs chairman David Varney in 2006 to provide big business with a ‘system of advance rulings’ to offer ‘certainty’ over their tax arrangements in relation to investments and restructuring. But figures obtained by Accountancy Age under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that just 18 requests for rulings have been submitted since the unit was launched in October 2007.”

British tax payer pays £600000 in legal fees for alQaeda suspects – 06/05/09
“Lawyers for Khalid al-Fawwaz, a Saudi citizen who allegedly acted as Osama bin Laden’s public relations representative in London, received £250,000 in legal fees from the Legal Services Commission according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act… British taxpayers also covered nearly £110,000 in legal bills for al-Fawwaz’s co-defendant, Adel Abdel Bary, an Egyptian who was allegedly close to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the deputy leader of al-Qaeda. Nearly £215,000 was paid in legal costs for a second associate, Ibrahim Eidarous who died of leukaemia in July while under house arrest in London.”

Civil servants feel Gordon Brown’s government is badly run – Personnel Today 06/05/09
“Thousands of civil servants do not know what their specific roles are within their government department, staff surveys have revealed. Using freedom of information requests to expose the findings of staff surveys at 13 government departments – employing just under 37,000 workers – the Conservative Party has revealed 8,000 staff have doubts about what was expected of them… The surveys of civil servants, including those working at the Cabinet Office, the Home Office and the Department of Health, also found 62% of civil servants – 23,000 staff within the 13 departments – felt their department was poorly managed.”

Millions ‘wasted’ advertising A-level alternative – 04/05/09
“Almost £11 million has been spent advertising the Government’s new diploma qualifications, even though courses are hugely undersubscribed this year. It means the equivalent of £900 was spent recruiting every pupil onto diploma courses. Some £2.6m went on radio adverts alone as it was disclosed the take-up rate was a quarter of the original estimate, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.”

Nine crashes a day caused by police – Daily Mirror 04/05/09
“Shocking figures reveal how careless police driving is putting public at risk. And shockingly many of these accidents are caused by basic driving errors. More than 150 people have died in police-related car accidents since 2004, including 79 during chases. Officers admitted causing 3,357 crashes last year – an average of more than 64 a week. At least 2,492 of the victims were driving another vehicle – 56 were motorcyclists or cyclists and at least 22 pedestrians – with 126 needing hospital treatment.”

Use of experiment primates shown – BBCi 05/05/09
“Oxford University has revealed the number of primates it uses for animal experiments, after being ordered to by the Information Commissioner… In 2008 the university held 86 primates with 66 experimented upon, compared to 99 held and 40 experimented on in 2007. The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection had requested the details.”


Historic Scotland’s clothes bill nearly £1m – The Times 10/05/09
“Historic Scotland has spent almost £200,000 a year on staff uniforms and costumes over the past five years, it has emerged. Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the government-funded heritage body has bought £900,000 worth of clothing over the past five years. More than £500,000 was spent on uniforms for 300 staff, including bespoke tartan trousers, kilts, wool jackets and cloaks for staff at Edinburgh Castle at a cost of £188,000.”

Fears capital’s tram project could ‘run off the rails’ – The Scottish Herald 08/05/09
“A major component of Edinburgh’s £512m trams scheme is running nine months behind schedule, prompting claims that the cost of Scotland’s biggest transport infrastructure project could ‘run off the rails’. Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that only 70% of utility work to prepare ground along the 11-mile route, which is due to be finished in September, has so far been completed. Work along some sections of the track is even further behind, with groundwork along the stretch between Newhaven and the Foot of Leith Walk only 40% completed. The Herald understands that the delays could lead to additional costs of between £50m to £80m.”

Motorists drive home their anger at potholes – The Press and Journal 04/05/09
“Angry motorists made more than 2,000 complaints about the number of potholes in Aberdeen’s roads over just six months. There was concern last night that the council was struggling to cope with the level of maintenance needed to bring the streets and main routes into and out of the city up to standard. New figures obtained by the Press and Journal using freedom of information legislation have revealed that the council received 2,023 complaints from disgruntled drivers between October and March.”

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