FOI Disclosure Stories June 19th- July 7th

More than 100 death risk leaks in North Sea oil rigs in two years – The Daily Record 07/07/11
More than 100 potentially lethal oil and gas spills took place on rigs in the North Sea in the last two years, a probe has highlighted. Damning statistics showing serious spills on oil and gas platforms at the rate of one a week were revealed under freedom of information legislation.

GPs left in limbo as PCTs shed staff and pay millions in redundancy costs – GP 05/07/07
PCTs have seen a mass exodus of staff almost two years before the transition to GP commissioning, with some already shedding up to a third of their workforce, a Pulse investigation reveals. Figures from 54 PCTs obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show they have each shelled out an average of £585,000 in redundancy and voluntary resignation costs – meaning the bill across England is likely to be more than £88m so far.

Revealed: The thousands of pregnancies aborted for ‘abnormalities’ including cleft palates and Down’s syndrome – The Daily Mail 05/07/11
Thousands of pregnancies were aborted last year for ‘abnormalities’ including 500 for Down’s syndrome, new figures reveal. The statistics for 2010 in England and Wales were released after the Department of Health yielded to a Freedom of Information Request from the Pro Life Alliance, following a five-year legal battle.

One in three PCTs restricts prescriptions
– Gponline 04/07/11
One in three PCTs has issued guidance restricting prescriptions to 28 days’ treatment at a time, despite opposition from patients and GPs, our investigation has found. Of 104 PCTs that replied to a Freedom of Information request, 32% said they had issued guidance advising GPs to limit prescriptions to 28 days’ supply at a time. A further 11% said they promoted such practice.

Some families still receiving £100,000 a year in housing benefit, latest figures reveal – The Telegraph 04/07/11
As the Coalition Government faces mounting criticism over plans to cap housing benefit at £500 per week, figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, show that some local authorities in the capital are still to paying private landlords up to four times that amount.

H.R.H. The Prince Minister: Charles accused of meddling after he summons seven senior Ministers to Clarence House in just ten months – Mail On Sunday 03/07/11
Prince Charles has been accused of meddling in Government policy after a Mail on Sunday investigation revealed he has had at least nine private meetings with Ministers in less than ten months according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act

Revealed: British government’s plans to play down Fukushima – The Guardian 30/06/11
Internal emails show a PR campaign was launched to protect UK nuclear plans after tsunami in Japan. Internal emails released by the Department for Energy and Climate Change show how the business and energy departments worked closely behind the scenes with multinational companies to try to ensure the accident did not derail their plans for a new generation of nuclear stations in the UK.

Cataract treatment thresholds branded ‘false economy’ – 30/06/11
Arbitrary thresholds for cataract treatment being brought in by some PCTs are ‘false economy’ and are reducing the quality of life for the elderly in England, an RNIB report has concluded. Following a Freedom of Information Act request to all English PCTs, the charity has found that 53% of those who responded had an acuity threshold in place for treatment which goes against Department of Health guidance. Read the report here.

Police cash in on car crashes: It’s not just insurance forms making millions selling drivers’ details – 28/06/11 Claims Standards Council
Police are raking in millions of pounds from a ‘huge racket’ in which they cynically sell on the details of drivers who have had a road accident. The police demand a so-called ‘administration fee’ of up to £25 per vehicle. The evidence was compiled by the insurer, using Freedom of Information requests.

UK Information Commissioner orders release of climate data – Nature 28/06/11
Nearly two years after an Oxford University professor filed the original freedom-of-information request, the United Kingdom Information Commissioner’s Office has overruled the University of East Anglia and ordered the institution to release a pair of files containing weather station data.

Spending on older people’s care to be cut by 8.4 per cent this year reveals new Age UK research – Age UK 27/06/11
Age UK research launched today reveals that the likely cuts in older people’s social care of 8.4 per cent this year could hasten the collapse of an already crumbling social care system in England. Age UK made a Freedom of Information request to each English council with responsibility for adult social services, to reveal their planned expenditure on older people’s social care for the current financial year.

Memo reveals intelligence chief’s bid to fuel fears of Iraqi WMDs
– The Observer 26/06/11
The senior intelligence official responsible for Tony Blair’s notorious dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction proposed using the document to mislead the public about the significance of Iraq’s banned weapons. The memo, released under the Freedom of Information Act, has been described as one of the most significant documents on the dossier yet published.

Inspections reveal poor standards of care at homes for the elderly – The Scotsman 26/06/11
One in ten of Scotland’s homes for the elderly are providing either “weak” or “unsatisfactory” care for residents, according to worrying new figures obtained by Labour from a freedom of information request.

Secret memorandum reveals Britain’s involvement in rendition – The Guardian 23/06/11
A secret memorandum of understanding between the UK and US on the treatment of prisoners captured in Iraq has been released for the first time. The 2008 document is one of a series of documents revealed through freedom of information requests put in by the all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition. Read the MOU here.

An end to the ‘status quo of secrecy’ at Bolton Council? – Bolton News 19/06/11
The outside business dealings of senior town hall staff could soon be made public after Bolton Council was issued a High Court threat by the country’s information boss. The threat comes after transparency campaigner John Greenwood asked for details held on the council’s register of interests in a request under the Freedom of Information Act. The Information Commissioner has now ruled that the details of the register of interests should be released.

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