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Weekly News Round-up: Secrecy, shortages and staff wages

Foreign Office hoarding 1m historic files in secret archive

The Foreign Office has unlawfully hoarded more than a million files of historic documents that should have been declassified and handed over to the National Archives, the Guardian has discovered.

The files are being kept at a secret archive at a high-security government communications centre in Buckinghamshire, north of London, where they occupy mile after mile of shelving.

Most of the papers are many decades old – some were created in the 19th century – and document in fine detail British foreign relations throughout two world wars, the cold war, withdrawal from empire and entry into the common market.

They have been kept from public view in breach of the Public Records Acts, which requires that all government documents become public once they are 30 years old – a term about to be reduced to 20 years – unless the department has received permission from the lord chancellor to hold them for longer. The secret archive is also beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act. Read more

Ian Cobain | The Guardian | 18th October 2013

NHS fills nursing shortage by turning to Spain and Portugal

A shortage of British-trained nurses is forcing NHS hospital trusts to look for staff overseas as they struggle to keep wards adequately staffed.

At least 40 of the 105 hospital trusts in England that responded to a Freedom of Information request by Nursing Times have actively recruited staff from abroad in the past 12 months. A further 41 trusts said they planned to recruit nurses from overseas in the next 12 months.

Nearly 1,000 of the 1,360 recent recruits from overseas came from Spain and Portugal. Many trusts have sent nursing managers to recruitment fairs on the Continent.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “This is symptomatic of the short-term, boom-and-bust workforce planning which is endemic in the NHS.

“It is frankly perplexing that on the one hand nursing posts are being cut and training places being reduced, while on the other, desperate managers are raiding overseas workforces.” Read more

Oscar Quine | The Independent | 14th October 2013

Pay ratios point to massive inequality

Pay in higher education is more unequal than previously thought, according to a report, and only a “small handful” of universities know how much their outsourced staff are being paid.

The Fair Pay Campus Report, released on 17 October, is based on the responses of 113 universities to Freedom of Information requests made by the Young Greens, the Green Party’s youth and student branch.

It finds that in 2012, the average pay differential between the highest- and lowest-paid university workers was 18.6:1, with huge variations between universities, ranging from more than 60:1 at some institutions when apprentice pay is included to 10.5:1 at Soas, University of London.

This average is substantially higher than the 15.4:1 differential for 2008 uncovered by the government-commissioned Hutton review of fair pay in the public sector, which reported in 2010 and 2011. Read more

David Matthews | Times Higher Education | 17th October 2013

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