FOI Disclosure Stories 20 – 26 July 2009

Secret Labour tax on having a patio – The Daily Mail 26/07/09
“Shocking new details of a stealth tax of up to £600 for householders with views of any kind, patios, conservatories and even a nearby bus stop are revealed for the first time today. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show millions of homes have already been secretly assessed by Labour in preparation for council tax hikes expected to target the middle class after the Election. Homes have been given ‘value significant codes’ which will make virtually every desirable feature taxable.”

Billion rubber band ball comes bouncing into view for Royal Mail
– 26/07/09
“The Royal Mail is using more than 871 million rubber bands a year, it has emerged, enough to stretch nine times round the world. The figure could soon break the billion mark with the number of bands being used rising from 753 million in 2005/06 to the latest figure of 871,695,000 in 2007/08.”

‘Lords-for-hire’ peer faces new quiz – The Times 25/07/09
“Lord Truscott, one of the peers in the lords-for-hire row, lobbied for the interests of clients at a meeting with government officials despite telling a House of Lords inquiry that he had attended only for ‘information purposes’. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the Labour peer pressed officials from the business department to speed up the roll-out of smart meters for domestic electricity customers.”

OGC publishes traffic light status of Gateway reviews – ComputerWeekly 23/07/09
“The Office of Government Commerce has published the ‘traffic light’ status and recommendations of Gateway reviews of 23 high-risk IT-related projects – three years after Computer Weekly requested them. The disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act cover projects such as the ID cards scheme and ‘Impact’, a police intelligence system which Sir Michael Bichard recommended after an inquiry he chaired into the murders by school caretaker Ian Huntley of two 10 year-old girls.”

Solo GPs face more GMC hearings – BBC 22/07/09
“Figures obtained from the General Medical Council raise more questions over the future of GPs who work alone. They reveal that GPs who work on their own are six times more likely to be summoned to a disciplinary hearing than GPs working in group practices… The GMC figures, which Newsnight has obtained, show that 17 so-called ‘single-handed’ GPs and 67 GPs working in group practices came up in front of a ‘fitness to practice’ hearing in the last year. According to the National Health Service in England, Scotland and Wales there were 38,728 GPs in multiple practice and 1,589 ‘loners’ for the relevant period.”

UK councils rec’d 315K noise complaints during the last year – Pro Sound News Europe 21/07/09
In the last 12 months, 315,838 noise-related complaints were received by local authorities, and 8,069 noise abatement notices were issued by environmental health offices, according to information released under the Freedom of Information Act. In addition, 715 anti-social behavirour orders (ASBOs) were secured by councils on the basis of noise.


Number of hoax bomb alerts almost double – Belfast News Letter 20/07/09
“Hoax bomb alerts in Ulster have almost doubled over the last year, the News Letter has learned. Figures released via a Freedom of Information request show that between April 1, 2008, and March 31 this year, 426 ‘bomb hoax-related crimes’ were recorded. Such crimes include placing, conspiring to place or attempting to place an article causing a bomb hoax, dispatching or conspiring to dispatch an article causing a hoax, and communicating false information causing a hoax.”


£103m paid over 5 years to victims of violent crime
– The Herald 26/07/09
“More than £103m in compensation has been paid in the last five years to victims of violent crime in Scotland. New figures show there have been 35,954 applications since 2004 to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) which has awarded £103.2m to 22,310 of them. In total £9.8m was paid to 2130 victims of knife crimes. The figures were released following a Freedom of Information request to the CICA by the Scottish Liberal Democrats.”

Pandemic could kill 63,000 in Scotland – The Guardian 22/07/09
“A severe flu pandemic could kill more than 63,000 people in Scotland within a few weeks and overwhelm mortuaries and crematoriums, an official study has concluded. The document, released to the Guardian under freedom of information regulations, also warns that at least 5,100 people in Scotland could die even if the flu virus was relatively mild and infected only a quarter of the population… The previously unpublished study was written last year to help councils and health authorities plan for a pandemic, before swine flu hit the UK, leaving at least 31 people dead and infecting an estimated 85,000 people since April.”

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