FOI Media Update July 2012

Liverpool City council leaves millions in tax uncollected 2.07.2012 Click Liverpool

A Lib Dem politician has slammed Liverpool City Council over its failure to collect a more than £23 million in council tax that remains unpaid since 2009. The disclosure about the level of uncollected tax came in a responses to a Freedom of Information question posed by a researcher. Town hall officials revealed that there remains £11,931,737.20p uncollected for the calendar year 2010/11. Despite promises that there would be a crack-down on tax dodgers that sum is slightly higher that the for year 2009/10 for which £11,450,854.01p remains uncollected.

Grand fee paid for each foreign student 5.07.2012 Times Higher Education

UK universities recruited more than 50,000 international students through commission payments to overseas agents last year, spending close to £60 million on the practice in 2010-11, a Times Higher Education investigation has found. Using data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, THEfound that 100 universities enrolled 51,027 students in 2011, or the nearest recorded period, via a process involving agents paid on a commission basis.

Unison rejects 1% pay offer in higher education 6.07.2012 Unison

UNISON is asking for a guaranteed living wage for all higher education staff and a decent cost of living increase, to reflect high inflation plus years of cuts in real pay. A freedom of information request sent to every Higher Education Institution (HEI) found that more than half of those who responded pay some staff below the current Living Wage. The Living Wage rates are £8.30 in London and £7.20 outside London and are calculated as the minimum needed to provide employees and their families with a basic standard of living.

Secret e-mails reveal how DECC colluded with energy giants over nuclear plants 17.07.2012 – ClickGreen

A string of secret emails has revealed how the nuclear energy chief at the Department of Energy and Climate Change colluded with utility company bosses to manipulate the message of the withdrawal of new nuclear power plant build in the UK.

The letters, marked “strictly private and confidential” and released following a Freedom of Information request, show how the DECC chief coaxed RWE nPower and E.ON executives into defending the Government’s policy on nuclear energy.

The email exchange took place before the official announcement on March 29 that RWE nPower and E.ON were abandoning the Horizon Nuclear Power project and scrapping plans to build new reactors at sites around the UK. At the time, both companies blamed financial uncertainty and Germany’s decision to phase out all nuclear power in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident in Japan.

UCU speaks out over ‘unregulated’ courses 17.07.2012 – Education Today

The University and Colleges Union (UCU) has spoken out about the fact that the government approved over 400 degree and diploma courses at private universities for taxpayer funding in 2011/12, without checking on the quality of courses offered by providers or student completion rates. Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, by Times Higher Education Magazine, shows that the number of private provider courses approved without quality checks increased by 77% from 228 in the 2010/11 academic year to 403 in 2011/12 academic year.

One company, London College UCK, was awarded 98 courses in just one day, while another provider, Cavendish College, was approved for 22 courses just weeks before being forced to close due to UK Border Agency regulations.

Libor emails ‘show Bank of England’s efforts to get banks to lower rates 17.07.2012 – The Telegraph

John Mann, an MP on the Treasury Committee, has released emails showing the Bank of England had concerns about the level of Libor at Barclays, HSBC and RBS in 2008. The emails, obtained by through a freedom of information request, show the central bank in 2008 encouraging the three banks to lower Libor.

Unison survey highlights the impact of FE cuts 27.07.2012 – Education Executive

A freedom of information survey, sent by Unison to 248 further education colleges in England, reveals what the union has called “the devastating impact government funding cuts are having on learners and staff”. More than 60% of respondents said they have had to close courses – from a-levels to part-time adult learning – as a result of budget cuts and changes to funding eligibility rules. The survey also reveals a drop in enrolment figures for this academic year – with nearly 70% of respondents reporting a fall. The conservative government’s decision to scrap education maintenance allowance (EMA) is the likely cause of this decline in applications for further study.

Tony Blair’s Iraq meetings to remain secret after ministerial veto 31.7.2012 – The Guardian

The government has vetoed an order by the Information Commissioner to release the minutes of cabinet meetings held immediately before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The decision was announced on Tuesday by Dominic Grieve, the attorney general, the only minister to have access to papers of a previous administration, in this case Tony Blair’s Labour government. Grieve said he issued a certificate under the Freedom of Information Act vetoing disclosure after consulting former Labour ministers, his cabinet colleagues, and the leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband. This is the second time release of the Iraq cabinet minutes has been vetoed – the former Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, issued a veto in 2009 following a previous request for the information.


Anti-psychotic drugs ‘forced on detainee’ 16.07.2012 – Morning Star

The last British resident in Guantanamo Shaker Aamer may have been forcibly given mind-altering drugs by his US captors, recently declassified documents have revealed. Documents released by the Pentagon last week following a Freedom of Information request by US journalists revealed that powerful anti-psychotic sedatives were routinely used on Guantanamo prisoners.

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