FOI Disclosure Stories April 19th-May 4th

£7 million spent on Birmingham Prison ahead of controversial takeover – Birmingham Mail 03/05/11
Taxpayers have shelled out more than £7 million during the past five years on improvements at Birmingham Prison – even though it will be taken over in less than six months by a private security firm. A Freedom of Information request revealed more than £2 million had been spent during the first three months of this year alone.

£310k of City Council schemes are waved through – The Sentinel 03/05/11
Council officers applied to have more than £1.5 million worth of contracts approved without going through a tendering process designed to secure best value for money. They applied for exemption certificates for 12 projects which meant they did not have to go through a protracted procedure. Information, obtained by The Sentinel under the Freedom of Information Act, showed that six of these projects went ahead costing £30, 915.

Care Quality Commission visits drop by 70% – Community Care 03/05/11
Adult care providers have seen a “frightening and unacceptable” 70% drop in inspections by the Care Quality Commission in the past year, prompting fears for the welfare of service users. The sharp fall, revealed in a Freedom of Information request by Community Care, follows the introduction of the CQC’s new registration system for providers last October, and comes despite the regulator saying that it expected there to be more inspections under the new regime.

Top Kent schools get millions in funding meant for deprived inner city pupils – Your Thanet 30/04/11
More than £4.5 million a year of Government funding is being “unfairly” pumped into selected schools to spend as they wish through a project abolished five years ago. And despite the grants being designed specifically to help schools in deprived urban areas, many of those in Kent receiving the no-strings-attached cash are in affluent areas or are grammar schools according to figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

GPs challenge PCT rationing plans – GP 28/04/11
PCT restrictions on access to NHS treatment has led to a huge rise in GPs having to submit requests for patients to access care, GP has found. The number of such requests rose by 17 per cent from 2008/9 (53,000) to 2010/11 (62,000), according to responses from 103 PCTs to our request under the Freedom of Information Act. Over the same period, the proportion of requests approved fell by 22 per cent.

Trusts insist on local GPs in out-of-hours overhaul – Pulse 28/04/11
GP out-of-hours care is being radically reshaped across England, with PCTs working with consortia to implement ‘local doctor only’ policies or merging services with the Government’s new 111 urgent care number.75 PCTs are following the lead of NHS East of England according to responses under the Freedom of Information Act.

Syrian officers received training in Britain – The Guardian 27/04/11
The British government has defended its training programme for foreign military leaders after it emerged that it had educated several Syrian officers at Ministry of Defence colleges. The data was released following a freedom of information request by the Guardian.

Britain for Sale – Property Week 21/04/11
A never-before-seen list of government property that is on the market, including a derelict hospital on London’s Hampstead Road, a Yorkshire golf club and a grade II-listed office building in Cheltenham, was obtained from by the Government Property Unit through a Freedom of Information Act request. See a map of all the properties here.

Secret memos expose link between oil firms and invasion of Iraq – The Independent 19/04/11
Plans to exploit Iraq’s oil reserves were discussed by government ministers and the world’s largest oil companies the year before Britain took a leading role in invading Iraq, government documents show. Over 1,000 documents were obtained under Freedom of Information over five years by the oil campaigner Greg Muttitt.

Closures of youth prisons triggered cases of unrest – Children & Young People Now 19/04/11
The closure of young offender institutions (YOIs) has created serious safeguarding issues within the secure estate, CYP Now has learned. A YJB document dating back to last September, released to CYP Now under the Freedom of Information Act, revealed that “recent decommissioning of estate appears to have been a relevant factor in two recent significant incidents”.

GPs set for greater powers to combat acute trust overspends – Pulse 18/04/11
The Department of Health is poised to add more levers into acute trust contracts to give GPs greater negotiating powers with hospitals, says a senior Department of Health official. It comes as information obtained by Pulse under the Freedom of Information Act revealed the extent of acute overspending that GP commissioners will have to tackle.

Emails expose BP’s attempts to control research into impact of Gulf oil spill – The Guardian 15/04/11
BP officials tried to take control of a $500m fund pledged by the oil company for independent research into the consequences of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, it has emerged. Documents obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act show BP officials openly discussing how to influence the work of scientists supported by the fund, which was created by the oil company in May last year.

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