Media Update – 1st to 14th January 2013

HMRC: taxman increasingly ‘snooping’ on taxpayers – The Telegraph – 14.01.13
Figures obtained under Freedom of Information show HMRC officials made almost 14,400 authorised views of “communications data” on taxpayers during tax evasion investigations in the past year. This equates to a rise of almost 25% on 2010 figures. It is not clear how many times the surveillance has led to a successful prosecution for tax evasion or whether those found to be innocent are told that they have been spied upon.

City sackings soar as FSA cracks down – The Independent – 14.01.13

Sackings and suspensions hit a five-year high in the City last year, as the financial crisis continued to take its toll on employment amid a clampdown on wrongdoing by the regulator.  Law firm Pinsent Masons sourced figures through a freedom of information request.

Sharp fall in young police officers – BBC – 13.01.13

The number of young police officers in England and Wales has fallen by nearly 50% in two years. Overall police numbers hit an nine-year low in 2012, due to tighter budget constraints slowing recruitment, but data obtained in a Freedom of Information request by the BBC shows how much of that fall has been among younger officers.

Information commissioner backtracks on naming salmon farms that kill seals after ‘death threat’ – Herald Scotland – 13.01.13

In a rare move, the Scottish Information Commissioner has reopened her investigation into the issue of forcing ministers to name salmon farms that shoot seals to stop them eating fish.  The Commissioner has now given ministers until the end of the month to provide hard evidence of the risks to property and people that are claimed to exist from animal welfare campaigners should the farms be named. She will then consider whether to enforce her decision, which originally demanded seal-shooting salmon farms be identified by 10th January.

Stirling university researcher claims safety regime policy is risky – BBC – 11.01.13

A Stirling university researcher has claimed government policy on safety is putting lives at risk in the work place. Prof Rory O’Neill used Freedom of Information requests and Health and Safety Executive reports to compile a list of sectors excluded from unannounced HSE inspections.

How to follow the public money in a privatised NHS – The Guardian – 09.01.13

Without basic financial transparency from public service contractors we can say goodbye to democratic accountability.

[Note: In this Comment piece Zoe Williams urges readers to request their MP’s to sign an early day motion (EDM) calling for private companies with NHS contracts to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.  The MP responsible for introducing the EDM, Grahame Morris (Labour) responds in The Guardian Letters 10.01.13 here.]

10,000 truancy convictions in a year – Daily Express – 08.01.13

Record numbers of parents are being convicted for allowing their children to play truant from school, new figures obtained from the Ministry of Justice under the Freedom of Information Act reveal.

Violent school pupils attack 900 London teachers a year – London Evening Standard – 07.01.13

Teachers in London have suffered more than 4,000 assaults from pupils over the past five years. The scale of violence is shown in figures obtained by the Evening Standard under the Freedom of Information Act.

Abuse and neglect complaints increase in Essex care homes – BBC – 07.01.13

Allegations of abuse of elderly people in Essex care homes have risen by more than 300 in a year, a BBC Freedom of Information request revealed. The allegations total 1,398 in 2011-12, up from 1,045 in 2010-11. The council said 299 allegations of abuse had been upheld in 2011/12 up from 149 in 2010/11.

20-year rule comes into force – Wired-gov – 04.01.13
As of 1st January 2013, the government has begun its move towards releasing records when they are 20 years old, instead of 30. During 2013 The National Archives will receive records from 1983 and 1984. Then, two further years worth of government records will be transferred each year until 2023 when the Archive will receive records from 2003.

Cuts fail to halt first-class travel for profligate public sector – Yorkshire Post – 05.01.13

Councils and NHS hospitals are spending thousands of pounds on first-class rail tickets for senior executives despite the biggest squeeze on public spending in living memory. Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed at least five of Yorkshire’s 22 councils and four of its NHS hospital trusts spent taxpayers’ money on first-class rail fares during 2011/12, though most public bodies in the region said it was strictly against their guidelines to pay for their staff to travel first class.

£5,000 cost to ‘design’ controversial Fenland sign – Peterborough Telegraph – 04.01.13

Concern has been raised over the use of public funds after the Highways Agency spent £5,000 designing a road sign for a Fenland Village.

Revealed: Deaths during childbirth are on the rise – Herald Scotland – 04.01.13

More than 40 women have died as a result of childbirth in Scotland in the past decade and the number of fatalities appears to be rising. The figures, obtained by the Herald using Freedom of Information legislation, show the number of mothers killed by complications linked to pregnancy and delivery doubled in five years. NHS officials initially refused to reveal the figures and only released the information after an appeal was lodged.

Ex-University of Wales vice chancellor had £20,000 pay rise – BBC – 03.01.13

Plaid Cymru has criticised a £20,000 pay rise for the former vice chancellor of the University of Wales. The salary of professor Marc Clement rose from £121,082 in 2010-11 to £140,150 the following year. He was aloso paid a “discretionary honorarium” of £10,000 in 2010-11, a freedom of information request showed. Plaid described the decision as “baffling” as it came as the University faced controversy over links to partner colleges, leading to it being effectively wound up.

MoD compensation log illustrates human cost of Afghan war – The Guardian – 01.01.13

A list obtained under Freedom of Information Act shows compensation paid by the Ministry of Defence for civilian injuries and deaths alongside frequent crop damage. The cases paint a picture of the ongoing human cost of the conflict.

Sex offender at Southend Hospital was CRB checked – BBC – 01.01.13

A known sex offender got work at a hospital despite being criminal record bureau (CRB) checked. Responding to the BBC’s FOI request, the hospital said the agency worker was hired to provide optician services and saw eight children between April and June.

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