FOI Disclosure Stories May 2011

Internal report reveals fear of sudden ruinous rise in oil prices – The Times 24/05/11 (subscription only)
A sudden huge increase in oil prices would cut more than £102 billion from the economy over the next five years, wrecking Britain’s economic recovery, increasing unemployment and provoking industrial action, according to a Department for Energy and Climate Change report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Empty homes to be demolished ‘hidden from figures’ – BBC 23/05/11
Around 12,000 empty homes are hidden from official figures because they are earmarked for demolition, according to The Empty Homes Agency, which discovered the numbers using a freedom of information request.

Welsh schools’ GCSE performances revealed – BBC Wales 23/05/11
The Welsh Government places schools in “families” – groups of about 10 – where pupils have similar levels of family income and special needs. In one case a school’s results are 42% better than another in the same family. The details were obtained by BBC Wales under the Freedom of Information Act.

Sharp drop in risk assessments into financial firms – The Guardian 22/05/11
The number of risk assessments into financial firms has fallen dramatically since the banking crisis in 2008. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the FSA revealed 936 risk assessments took place in 2002, with 616 in 2004 and 427 in 2006. The number then stabilised around 300 until 2008 when it fell to just over 200.

Radiotherapy centre was regarded as one of the five ‘highest priority projects’
– The Londonderry Sentinel 13/05/11
Documents obtained through FOI show that the move towards halting plans to proceed with a badly-needed radiotherapy centre at Altnagelvin Hospital came just hours after it was described as one of the Department of Health’s highest priorities. The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety released various drafts of the controversial statement made by then Health Minister Michael McGimpsey on the last day of the Assembly.

NDCS map shows local authorities failing to protect deaf children’s services – National
Deaf Children’s Society 10/05/11
Figures released by the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) reveal that almost one in five local authorities across England have cut education services for vulnerable deaf children, despite the education budget being protected by the Government. NDCS had to issue 45 Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to obtain the data.

Extent of sexual offences by police being concealed by resignations – The Times 10/05/11 (subscription only)
More than 300 police officers have been disciplined for sexual offences in the past five years, The Times can reveal. Almost a hundred faced sexual assault charges, and 231 misconduct hearings for sexual misconduct, with about a third of the officers dismissed or required to resign. All 52 police forces responded to a freedom of information request for data about sexual wrongdoing by officers, with the exception of Warwickshire.

Birmingham children’s care homes and the £41million scandal – Birmingham Mail 09/05/11
The cost of placing troubled children from Birmingham in private care has rocketed after council chiefs closed four kids’ homes in the city. The information was released to the Birmingham Mail under Freedom of Information laws. The revelation that children from the city are being sent to centres up to 470 miles away in Scotland, as well as East Sussex and County Durham, has been described as a “scandal”.

Hundreds of police sacked in secret hearings
– The Times 09/05/11
Police forces are sacking 160 officers every year after misconduct hearings held behind closed doors, an investigation by The Times has discovered. The Times made freedom of information requests to all 52 local forces across Britain. The results uncovered a disciplinary lottery, with officers being fired in one area for offences that might attract only a fine in another.

Councils accused of blocking renewable energy roll out – Renewable Energy Installer 05/05/11
Government plans to support the roll out of a renewable energy network are being hampered by confusion and a shocking level of inconsistency at the local level, a new survey has found. Despite government legislation to scrap the need for planning permission, many councils are still insisting homeowners seek their consent before installing solar panels according to FOI requests submitted by Renewable Energy Installer magazine.

1 in 4 not in council pension – GMB Union 03/05/11
One in four council workers have already opted out of local government pension schemes showing proposed contribution increases to local government pension schemes from 3.2% to 9.6% would be a disaster, and could jeopardise the entire Local Government Pension Scheme for its four million members says GMB. GMB established that data on participation rates in the current Local Government pension scheme using the Freedom of Information Act.

Alok Sharma MP: How Council Tax payers have funded £35 million of Trade Union salaries over the past three years – Conservative Home 28/04/11
In order to find out just how widespread the practice of funding full-time union officials with tax payers’ money was, FOI requests were sent to 429 councils across the country. Out of the 319 councils that responded, 132 had a paid full-time union official in at least one of the last 3 years. The total salary bill over the three year period for full-time union reps was £35 million.

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