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The day in FoIA: HMRC snoops on public 14,000 times in a year, City sackings soar as FSA cracks down and police numbers ‘lowest for 9 years’

The tax man is watching you: HMRC snoops on public 14,000 times in a year

Taxpayers’ personal data, including records of web sites they have visited and where their mobile phone calls are made, is being viewed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs on an increasingly frequent basis.

In 2011, HMRC was authorised to view 14,381 items of “communications data” on taxpayers while investigating tax evasion, compared with 11,513 items in 2010, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act and seen by The Independent.

Using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, HMRC can see web sites viewed by taxpayers; where a mobile phone call was made or received; and the date and time of emails, texts and phone calls. 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 on. HMRC did not respond to requests for this information. Read more.

Nick Huber | The Independent | 13th January 2013

City sackings soar as FSA cracks down

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.

A total of 1,373 City staff were suspended or dismissed last year, which represents a 76 per cent jump on the year before, as the Financial Services Authority stepped up its campaign against white-collar crime.

“The FSA has increasingly shown that it is cracking down on financial crime and market abuse. Financial services firms are operating under increased scrutiny and as a result employers are imposing industry rules more strictly,” said Helen Farr, a partner at Pinsent Masons, the law firm which sourced the figures through a freedom of information request. “FSA enforcement activity has clearly had an impact on firms’ willingness to tolerate wrongdoing. Firms now appear much more likely to discipline employees for offences,” Ms Farr continued, adding that the case of Kweku Adoboli had helped focus minds in the industry. Read more.

Tom Bawden | The Independent | 14th January 2013

Police numbers ‘lowest for 9 years’          

The number of police officers under the age of 26 has fallen by almost half in two years, it has been reported.

The 9,088 young officers working in England and Wales in 2009-2010 dropped to 4,758 in 2011-2012.

The sharpest drops of nearly two-thirds were reported by police forces in Cleveland, North Wales and Staffordshire, according to figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request by BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend.

In 2012 overall policing numbers hit their lowest in nine years, with around 10,000 fewer police officers than two years ago, following budget cuts which have slowed recruitment. Read more.

London Evening Standard | 13th January 2013

Scottish Lib Dems: Freedom of Information bill is first test of whether SNP government has listened to concerns

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP has urged the SNP toWillie Rennie begin 2013 with a fresh commitment to open government. Speaking ahead of the Stage 3 debate on the Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, Mr Rennie has called on Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to support the introduction of a purpose clause to the bill.

The purpose clause would plainly set out how the bill could be used to expand the public’s right to access information about bodies which spend the public pound. It requires governments to increase progressively the availability of information held by Scottish public authorities. This is an amendment the Scottish Liberal Democrats will be supporting in the final debate.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Mr Rennie said:

“2012 saw the SNP throw away any credibility it had for governing openly and transparently. While Alex Salmond talked of a modern, liberal Scotland, his government was drawing the blinds and double locking the doors. The Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) bill is the first test of whether the SNP have been listening to concerns about their fondness for secrecy. Read more.

Scottish Liberal Democrats | 11th January 2013

Rodents at Man Utd and Chelsea’s out-of-date turkey… find out who wipes the floor with the competition in the Premier League’s clean table

Mice, uncooked chicken and out of date turkey are just some of the hygiene nasties that health inspectors have discovered at Premier League football grounds.

The two most recent environmental reports from teams in the top tier of English football have revealed some surprising findings.

An inspection of Manchester United’s stadium Old Trafford discovered that the club has previously had to deal with the presence of rodents.

Chelsea FC, bankrolled by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, were criticised for previously almost serving ‘cooked turkey saddles’ that were out of date.

As a result they were warned that this was a ‘serious contravention’ of hygiene laws.

The information, which was obtained through Freedom of Information requests, also highlighted some other interesting discoveries.

Read more.

Tom White | The Daily Mail | 14th January 2013



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