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Academies face funding clawback, according to FOIA release

Academies face funding clawback

A funding error has left around 100 academies facing the prospect of paying back almost £15 million, it has emerged.

In some cases, it is thought the repayments will equate to almost 10% of an affected school’s budget, which could force them to make cutbacks and redundancies.

According to data released through a Freedom of Information request, 128 academies have been handed too much public money, with each now having to pay back an average of almost £118,000 by the end of the school year.

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The Press Association | 5th May 2012

Previously unreleased photographs show impact of BP oil on endangered sea turtles

Previously unreleased photographs from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico show boxes and bags full of oil-covered and dead endangered sea turtles and a group of sperm whales swimming through an oil sheen.

The photographs were obtained by the environmental group Greenpeace through a Freedom of Information Act request sent to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in July 2010.

John Hocevar, Greenpeace’s director of ocean campaigns, said the photographs paint a more dire picture of the effects of the spilled oil on endangered species than federal agencies presented during the disaster.

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Brian Vastag | Washington Post |7th May 2012

Significant cuts to IT headcount at some of UK’s biggest spending councils

A number of the UK’s largest councils have significantly cut their IT workforce in recent years, according to local government figures.

According to figures published in response to freedom of information requests by Guardian Government Computing by some of the highest spending local authorities on IT in the UK, several councils have seen double digit falls in their IT headcount.

West Sussex county council recorded the biggest dip with a 90% drop in IT staff between 2008-09 and January 2012. ICT employees working directly for the council fell from 138 to 12 over the period as staff were part of a two phase TUPE transfer in 2010 and 2011 that saw employees being transferred to an outsourcing company.

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Sade Laja | The Guardian | 4th May 2012

It’s a scandal that big hospital contracts are being awarded in private

Politicians are keeping us in the dark over how public money is being used by private health providers such as Circle

Once upon a time in England, NHS health authorities and hospitals would publish annual accounts to show income and detailed expenditure on staff, services, maintenance, supplies and administration. Scotland and Wales still do, having eschewed the market; Scottish health boards are also now required to itemise all commercial contracts over £25,000. In England, routine information on expenditure is increasingly concealed by freedom of information exemptions under the veil of commercial confidentiality. Meanwhile, public money is diverted to for-profit healthcare companies such as Virgin, UnitedHealth, Netcare, Serco and Circle.

In November 2011, the government announced that Circle Healthcare would run Hinchingbrooke hospital for 10 years – the first NHS hospital to have its management taken over by a private business. Circle Healthcare chief executive is the former Goldman Sachs executive Ali Parsa. The recent revelation in a letter from health minister Earl Howe to Lord Haskel that Circle shareholders will have first call of £2m annually on any surpluses raises serious questions about the terms of the contract. How exactly is Circle going to square the circle of shareholder demands and patient needs against Hinchingbrooke’s recurrent annual deficit of £38m?

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Allyson Pollock | The Guardian | 4th May 2012

US Environment Protection Agency e-mails on anti-pollution rules reveal agency’s frustration with White House

Sometimes the Obama administration operates like a well-oiled machine when it issues pronouncements on how its proposed regulations will affect the nation.

An Aug. 30, 2011, e-mail exchange among Environmental Protection Agency officials, obtained by the Center for Progressive Reform under the Freedom of Information Act, provides a glimpse into how agency officials thought the White House failed to adequately capture their work on anti-pollution rules opposed by Republicans and industry officials.

In responding to an inquiry from House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) about which regulations proposed by his administration would cost more than $1 billion, President Obama sent a letter that — in EPA officials’ view — not only caught them by surprise but also misstated the cost of one of their rules and failed to highlight the potential benefits of others.

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Juliet Eilperin | Washington Post | 3rd May 2012

New details on DHS monitoring of Occupy movement

The [US] Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released another batch of documents Thursday morning in response to Truthout’s wide-ranging Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request pertaining to the agency’s role in monitoring the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protest movement.

The materials show that DHS and other federal law enforcement agencies under DHS’s control received and disseminated numerous internal intelligence reports and threat bulletins about OWS’s activities and monitoring of the group was widespread.

The heavily redacted documents total 335 pages (28 pages were released in full). The letter DHS sent to this reporter detailing the exemptions the agency applied in justifying the redactions can be read here.

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Press TV | 4th May 2012

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