FOI Media Update – December 1st to 14th 2012

Your £1 million bill for jet-set BBC bosses: Corporation spent huge sum on flights to U.S. in just seven months – Mail Online – 14.12.12
The BBC spent more than £1 million on flights to America in the space of seven months this year, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Prince of Wales ‘should be forced to answer freedom of information requests’, court told – The Telegraph – 13.12.12
The Prince of Wales should be forced to abide by freedom of information laws so that environmentalists can ensure he is managing the Duchy of Cornwall properly, a judge has been told. The Duchy claims that it is a private entity, and is therefore exempt from the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR), under which public bodies must disclose information on activity that impacts the environment. In the latest round of an argument begun in 2008, the Upper Tribunal in London was told that the Duchy’s control of assets made it a public body in all but name.

At a previous hearing, an Information Rights Tribunal ruled that the Duchy was a public body for the purposes of the EIR, but the Duchy successfully applied for a stay of proceedings while a test case is heard in the European Court of Justice. In the latest hearing Mr Justice Charles ruled that the stay of proceedings should remain in place until the ECJ makes its ruling.

Live animal exports going via previously unknown routes – The Guardian – 13.12.12
Farmers, lorry firms and shipping companies have been operating a hitherto unknown route for live export of animals as controversy over the trade through Ramsgate intensifies. Cattle from farms in England and Scotland have been transported unknown to welfare campaigners. The government’s Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), responsible for ensuring proper welfare arrangements, has revealed nine consignments totalling more than a thousand cattle were sent out of the UK in this way in the first half of 2012. The figures were released to Compassion in World Farming in response to Freedom of Information requests but the AHVLA withheld information about which port or ports are used and the final destinations of animals, claiming doing so might jeopardise the health and safety of its staff.

Harrow has lost 100 police officers, claims Gareth Thomas MP – Harrow Times – 13.12.12
The Harrow West MP claims to have uncovered data, using a Freedom of Information Act request to the Metropolitan Police Service, which shows that Harrow has lost 100 police officers in two years.

M25 cameras fail to catch a single speeding driver in past year – The Huffington Post – 13.12.12
Not a single driver on the M25 has been caught or fined for speeding in the past year because the cameras don’t work.  Some police authorities were reluctant to supply details in response to Freedom of Information requests. The Metropolitan Police took more than 40 days to respond and originally refused to reply for “fear of repercussions”.

Bus support ‘cut for second year’ – BBC – 12.12.12
More than 40% of local authorities in England have cut spending on supported bus services this financial year.

£6,000 worth of VIAGRA and anti-smoking pill among items stolen from military bases – Mail Online – 11.12.12
Details of thefts from military bases were disclosed by the MoD’s Defence Fraud Analysis Unit in response to FOI request.

Kirklees Council leader Mehboob Khan cleared on FOI tampering claims – The Huddersfield Daily Examiner – 11.12.12
A tribunal has found that Kirklees Council leader did not interfere with the public’s right to access information under the Freedom of Information Act.

The group which doesn’t know its chief executive’s pay – BBC – 10.12.12
An educational organisation, United Learning, which runs 31 schools has told the Information Commissioner that it doesn’t hold any information on what its chief executive, a former senior civil servant, is paid.

The £13m redundancy bill for Norfolk and Suffolk councils and police – Norwich Evening News – 10.12.12
Councils and police forces in Norfolk and Suffolk spent £13.2m making more than 1,200 workers redundant in just 12 months.

Lancashire school abuse figures are a ‘concern’ – Lancashire Evening Post – 10.12.12
Nearly 500 allegations of physical and sexual abuse were made against people working in Lancashire schools over the past three years. New figures, which came to light as a result of a Freedom of Information request, reveal that the county has sacked more school staff, including teachers, than anywhere else in the country as a direct result of the claims.

Funding and staff ‘cut’ for cancer networks – BBC – 10.12.12
Clinical networks which oversee the care of cancer, heart and stroke patients in the NHS have had their budgets and staff cut, data obtained under Freedom of Information shows.

Tory MP in battle with ministers over ‘snooping bill’ safeguards – Spectator – 09.12.12
A Tory MP is engaged in a fight with the Home Office on safeguards for its draft Communications Data Bill. Part of the government’s justification for the bill rests on filtering arrangements. Conservative MP Dominic Raab, who is deeply concerned about the legislation, is irritated that the government is refusing to provide information on how those filtering arrangements will work in practice. He is appealing to the Information Commissioner’s Office after having a Freedom of Information request refused by the Home Office.

Lockerbie bomber: Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Tutu urged to back release – BBC – 07.12.12
The Scottish government asked Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Irish president Mary Robinson to back its decision to release Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. Emails sent to prominent figures have been published after a Freedom of Information request.

Shock RAH findings unearthed by patient – Paisley Daily Express – 07.12.12
Death rates at the Royal Alexandra Hospital double at weekends. Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information legislation show that the Monday to Friday death rate at the Paisley hospital is around two per cent – but this increases to around four per cent on Saturdays and Sundays.

Research data win exemption from FoI Act – Times Higher Education – 06.12.12
The government has agreed to introduce an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act to prevent the premature disclosure of research data. Universities UK has campaigned for an exemption because it feared that researchers could use the act to “scoop” raw experimental data from rivals and beat them to publication.

Car Thief paid £2,000 compensation after police dog bite during arrest – Telegraph – 05.12.12
A car thief has been paid £2,000 in compensation by a police force after he was bitten by one of its dogs during his arrest. The payout came to light following a Freedom of Information request regarding people who had sued Notts Police over dog bites in the past three years. In total, over £19,000 has been paid to six claimants.

Police are armed with bullets too cruel for warfare – Cambridge News – 05.12.12
A controversial type of bullet used to kill Charles de Menezes has been given to Cambridgeshire’s armed police. The revelation that the constabulary has armed officers with the bullet – which was banned in warfare more than a century ago – came after a Freedom of Information request.

Liberal Democrats hit out at Haringey Borough Council for spending £40m on agency staff and consultants – Haringey Independent – 04.12.12
Opposition councillors have criticised Haringey Borough Council for spending more than £40m on agency staff and consultants. According to figures from a Freedom of Information request, the council has spent £38m on temporary agency staff and a further £1.6m on consultants since 2010.

Student suicides rise along with debt burdens – Times Higher Education – 04.12.12
The number of students taking their own lives rose by 50 per cent in four years. The statistics, released via a Freedom of Information request made by Ed Pinkney, the founder of Mental Wealth UK, a student mental health charity. According to Mr Pinkney, the figures come in the light of growing pressures on students caused by rising costs and gloomy job prospects.

London councils face questions for housing families outside the capital – The Guardian – 03.12.12
Reduction in number of affordable properties has led authorities to send families as far away as Cornwall and Newcastle. Research has revealed the scale of plans being drawn up to send families to live in temporary housing outside the capital. Eighteen of those councils responding to Freedom of Information requests anticipate having to place people outside of Greater London next year to cope with the rising numbers of homeless families.

Talking point: Hospital safety – Holyrood – 03.12.12
Around one in ten patients who are admitted to hospital suffer an adverse event – some more serious than others. Hundreds of previously hidden reports that detail some of the most serious incidents in Scotland’s hospitals last year have now been published by BBC Scotland, following a Freedom of Information request.

Nearly 200 compensation claims brought against Redbridge hospital trust in two years – Ilford Recorder – 03.12.12
A Freedom of Information request by the Recorder revealed that nearly 200 compensation claims have been made against Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust in last two years.

HS2 ‘is likely to lower the value of up to 170,000 homes’ – Independent – 02.12.12
The value of more than 40,000 homes – and possibly as many as 170,000 – could be hit by the proposed new HS2 rail line, yet ministers are proposing to compensate fewer than 2,000 owners, campaigners have warned.

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