The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Swansea had previously dismissed three workers for making “inappropriate comments” about the DVLA, a colleague or customers on social media. The man was dismissed last year, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed.
A DVLA spokesman said it was “one of a list” of the worker’s “conduct issues”. He added: “DVLA staff cannot access any social networking sites on DVLA computers.
“Although instances of staff using social media inappropriately are extremely rare, any incidents of staff using social media at work on their personal phones are always investigated and could result in disciplinary action.” Read more
BBC | 22nd May 2013
Last month the Chancellor George Osborne boldly announced “This month, 9 out of 10 working households will be better off as a result of the changes we are making… And the average working household will be better off by over £300 a year.”
It came in a speech to Morrisons staff at the outset of a swathe of policy changes which began to be implemented last month, including the rollout of Universal Credit to replace a series of benefits, Personal Independence Payment (PIP) replacing Disability Living Allowance, a cap on the increase and total benefits working-age people are entitled to, and an increase in the income tax personal allowance.
At the time, Full Fact attempted to factcheck the 9 out of 10 figure to no avail. The Treasury neither published nor disclosed details of how the figure was arrived at. Now, one month on and one freedom of information request later, we’ve managed to get hold of the figures. Read more
Joseph O’Leary | Full Fact | 21st May 2013
Figures obtained by BBC Wales suggest a 23% increase across the country but Blaenau Gwent council received four times as many calls than in 2011. The RSPCA also received 2,200 equine complaints in 2012.
The Welsh government is considering new legislation on the issue and a consultation on abandoned horses finished last month. In response to a Freedom of Information request, 20 of the 22 local authorities in Wales revealed that in 2012 they dealt with 469 incidents – a 23% increase on the previous year.
Until March this year 165 incidents had already been reported. Some horse and pony re-homing charities say they have noticed an increase in abandoned animals too. Blaenau Gwent, which has several large areas of common land, saw the biggest increase in calls – from 34 in 2011 to 148 in 2012. Read more
Paul Heaney | BBC Wales | 22nd May 2013
A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the U.S. government had properly classified top secret more than 50 images of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden taken after his death and that the government did not need to release them.
The unanimous ruling by three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected a request for the images by a conservative nonprofit watchdog group. Judicial Watch sued for photographs and video from the May 2011 raid in which U.S. special forces killed bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, after more than a decade of searching.
The organization’s lawsuit relied on the Freedom of Information Act, a 1966 law that guarantees public access to some government documents. In an unsigned opinion, the appeals court accepted an assertion from President Barack Obama’s administration that the images are so potent that releasing them could cause riots that would put Americans abroad at risk. Read more
The Daily Mail | 22nd May 2013
USE of the main government jet by ministers – the long-range Gulfstream IV – is to be published online for the first time in an attempt to put an end to negative publicity about its cost.
The use of the jet has dropped by more than a third since the recession began, but it still features occasionally in media reports on foot of Freedom of Information requests.
The cabinet decided yesterday that the use of the jet by ministers will be published on a monthly basis by the Department of Defence on its website. The details of the usage of the jet by the previous Fianna Fail-led government will also be put online – with the department confirming that all flights from 2008 onwards would be documented. Read more
Michael Brennan | Irish Independent | 22nd May 2013
A total of 11 staff have been given six-figure allowances to move from London to the corporation’s new headquarters in Salford, Greater Manchester. The corporation confirmed that all 11 used licence-fee payers’ money to move into homes worth between £500,000 to £1million.
The allowances cover the cost of their stamp duty, estate agency fees and furnishings, and other moving costs. Staff are also given lump sums payments worth up to 10 per cent of their salary. The figures were released as part of a National Audit Office report which found that the allowances were “generous” and that controls over allowances were “inadequate”.
A total of 91 staff were given “exceptional” amounts, including 23 individuals who were given extra to “incentivise” them to move because they were considered “critical” to the corporation. Read more
Steven Swinford | The Telegraph | 14th May 2013
The shopping expert Mary Portas spent weeks filming attempts to revive high streets in three of the locations chosen to pilot the retail “revolution”, but some others who worked away from the camera have not yet received a visit from the TV star, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.
A series of freedom of information requests show that of the first dozen”Portas pilots” – shopping centres chosen last May to receive £100,000 each of state support and advice – five got walkabouts where Portas spent a few hours touring the high street, four got no visit at all and two featured in hour-long TV reality shows as part of the Channel 4 series, Mary: Queen of the High Street.
Croydon, picked in the original wave of pilots, did not respond. When Grant Shapps, the then local government minister, wrote to Portas in February last year he said he hoped her “help and expertise will be extended … to those pilots that do not feature in your show”. Read more
Randeep Ramesh | The Guardian | 14th May 2013
HOAX calls attended by Bodmin firefighters have cost taxpayers at least £2,400 over the past three years. Figures obtained by the Cornish Guardian under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, revealed that crews have attended eight false call-outs in the town since 2010.
Six of these were caused by people maliciously setting off fire alarms, and the other two were prank phone calls. Nick Harvey, Bodmin’s station manager and fire prevention lead for Cornwall Fire & Rescue Service, said each fire crew call-out costs about £300 and can be more.
“The [FOI] figures are fairly consistent with what we would anticipate but we are always working to drive it down,” he said. ”We don’t appear to have a problem that’s greater than any other fire service. Generally, the more urban the brigade, the bigger the problem they have. It seems to be a problem with larger towns. Read more
Cornish Guardian | 15th May 2013
JERUSALEM – Benjamin Netanyahu has been embarrassed for the second time in a week after it was disclosed that his household costs have nearly doubled in four years, including spending hikes on shoes and hairdressing.
While his countrymen are being forced to accept a budget squeeze, Israel’s prime minister last year spent $918,000 on his three residences – an 80% rise on the $528,000 of 2009, the year he took office.
The figures were disclosed after a Jerusalem court forced Mr. Netanyahu’s office to release a report of his residence expenses following a request by the Movement for Freedom of Information. Read more
Robert Tait | The Telegraph | 13th May 2013
Under the proposals, being introduced this summer, anyone looking to bring a claim for unfair dismissal will have to pay a £250 fee to make the claim and a further £950 if the case reaches court. Previously it was free to make a claim. Payouts for successful claims will also be capped at one year’s salary or £74,200, whichever is lower, as part of a raft of measures aimed at making it easier for firms to dismiss underperforming staff.
The Government said last year it would make it harder for former workers to bring unfair dismissal claims against their employers, in an attempt to free the overburdened tribunal system from “spurious” claims that have little or no chance of succeeding.
But the latest figures reveal a substantial increase in the number of claims. Some 15,300 claims were made in the quarter to September 2012, compared to 10,600 in the three months to June, statistics from the Tribunals Service reveal. Employment law firm EMW, which obtained the figures under Freedom of Information law, said sacked employees have “rushed” to bring a claim before the changes take effect. Read more
Louisa Peacock | The Telegraph | 15th April 2013
A BBC investigation has revealed that some NHS trusts are not informing the GMC of medical staff who have made errors – even where some doctors have made repeated errors which endangered patient safety.
Responding to a freedom of information (FOI) request made to 163 NHS hospital trusts by BBC Radio 5 live Investigates, 13 said they had failed to inform the GMC about at least one doctor whose actions had resulted in more than one compensation payout, in the last five years. And at around half of those trusts, some doctors had moved to other NHS trusts which were not told about the previous complaints.
Several hospital trusts said they had compensated patients following repeated allegations made against a doctor, but had not referred the incidents to the GMC. Some doctors have been involved in up to six unreported incidents. Read more
Mark Gould | OnMedica | 15th April 2013
Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, says there is no ‘solid reason’ for regulator’s decision not to fully comply with request made by The Times under the Freedom of Information Act The Charity Commission has refused to release its correspondence with the charity the Cup Trust in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act.
The commission was criticised by the Public Accounts Committee in March for not taking action against the Cup Trust, which turned over £176m in two years but gave only £55,000 to good causes and was accused of being a tax-avoidance mechanism.
The Times newspaper submitted an FOI request to the commission asking it to disclose details of its correspondence with the Cup Trust about tax avoidance. Read more
Abi Rimmer | Third Sector Online | 15th April 2013
The South Australian Government said it would make available more government-held information, some of it without the need for Freedom of Information (FoI) applications.
Premier Jay Weatherill also said the public would now have possible access to Cabinet documents between 10 and 20 years old through Freedom of Information, the policy replacing a 10-year rule.
“FoIs are not processed by Government, they’re processed by independent FoI officers according to law so we don’t get involved in that process,” he said. The Premier said the Government was striving for openness and accountability by making more information available. Read more
ABC News | 15th April 2013
When a former stem cell researcher at the Joslin Diabetes Center was found to have committed scientific misconduct last year, the report on her wrongdoing was brief and succinct. An investigation had revealed that Shane Mayack reused images from unrelated experiments in two scientific papers, according to a note government authorities published in the Federal Register in August.
The full report of the internal Harvard Medical School investigation on which the federal authorities based their finding has now been released to the Globe through a Freedom of Information Act request.
It provides deeper insight into how this particular case of misconduct was detected and gives a sense of how the highly secretive investigations of serious, potentially career-ending allegations unfurl. Read more
Tobacco group JTI has gone on the offensive over ‘plain’ tobacco packaging with a national ad campaign claiming that the government does not fully accept that it would help cut rates of smoking.
The campaign, which is running in national newspapers and magazines, features a print-out of an email obtained by JTI in which an unnamed official at the Department of Health requests an impact assessment from an Australian counterpart of that country’s move to ban branded packaging.
The email – which was obtained under Freedom of Information laws – states that the main difficulty for the pro-plain tobacco packaging lobby is that “there isn’t any hard evidence to show that it works”. The line is highlighted and JTI’s strapline simply says: “We couldn’t have put it better ourselves”. Read more
See the advert here: tobacco.cleartheair.org.hk_wp-content_uploads_2013_04_JTI-advert-08-04-2013
Josh Brooks | Packaging News | 8th April 2013
Ministers have chosen to ignore warnings that residential and commercial property should not be built too close to the UK’s nuclear plants.
Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show that the government rejected advice from the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), regarding the lessons to be learned following Japan’s Fukushima disaster.
The regulator recommended restricting development near nuclear plants, advice that was overridden last week when the government approved the expansion of Lydd airport in Kent, a couple of miles from Dungeness nuclear power station. Read more
Jamie Doward | The Observer | 14th April 2013
WikiLeaks has released a new trove of documents, more than 1.7 million U.S. State Department cables dating from 1973-1976, which they have dubbed “The Kissinger Cables,” after Henry Kissinger, who in those years served as secretary of state and assistant to the president for national security affairs.
One cable includes a transcribed conversation where Kissinger displays remarkable candor: “Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings, ‘The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.’ [laughter] But since the Freedom of Information Act, I’m afraid to say things like that.”
While the illegal and the unconstitutional may be a laughing matter for Kissinger, who turns 90 next month, it is deadly serious for Pvt. Bradley Manning. After close to three years in prison, at least eight months of which in conditions described by U.N. special rapporteur on torture Juan Ernesto Mendez as “cruel, inhuman and degrading,” Manning recently addressed the court at Fort Meade. Read more
Amy Goodman | The Citizen | 13th April 2013
BELFAST – The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) has more reasons than most for sending its minister or civil servants abroad on promotion and fact-finding missions.
Indeed, it could be argued, it would be failing in its purpose if it did not engage in such outreach activities. So why then is it so reticent about releasing details of overseas travel? For 10 weeks it has ignored Freedom of Information requests from this newspaper on this issue, even though it is obliged by law to respond and should do so within 20 working days.
Perhaps DETI is taking its lead from the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister which was revealed recently to have failed to answer 40 FoI requests within the stipulated period, with 25 of the requests outstanding for more than a year. That is unacceptable and only fuels public suspicion about what goes on, whether that suspicion is justified or not. Read more
Belfast Telegraph | 15th April 2013
A few short days from now, the writ will drop on the 2013 provincial election, kicking off twenty-eight days of heated campaigning. And while there’s no shortage of issues for voters to consider, recent controversies around government secrecy and attempts to undermine Freedom of Information make it clear that information policy should be a top priority for voters.
The information rights of British Columbians are being undermined on many fronts. When it comes to access to information, a widespread and growing ‘oral culture’ at even the highest levels of government is making it tougher than ever before to obtain records and hold government to account.
And when it comes to privacy, the story isn’t much better. New data linkage and information sharing schemes like the BC Services Card and the Integrated Case Management System have been slammed by civil society organizations and Legislative officers as privacy-invasive, unreliable, and even dangerous to vulnerable communities. Read more
Vincent Gogolek | Huffpost British Columbia | 12th April 2013
Virginia is creating a new agency to support development of nuclear power – a move that has upset environmentalists and open-government advocates, because the entity won’t have to comply with the state’s Freedom of Information Act and other laws.
For the past year or so, companies that work with nuclear energy have been speaking with experts at Virginia universities with nuclear engineering programs and at industry-related nonprofit groups. The goal was to foster collaboration among nuclear-energy advocates, according to Del. T. Scott Garrett, R-Lynchburg.
In January, Garrett introduced a bill to create the Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium Authority. Sen. Jeffrey McWaters, R-Virginia Beach, sponsored companion legislation in his chamber. Both bills were passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Bob McDonnell. Read more
Stephen Nielson | Capital News Service | 12th April 2013
Retail commentator Paul Turner Mitchell found the Treasury unable to answer Freedom of Information requests relating to bad debts suffered by HMRC for unpaid PAYE and VAT owed by insolvent retailers, with officials claiming they did not keep such statistics by industry sector.
Undeterred, he instead commissioned corporate health management specialists Company Watch to conduct independent research. Unearthed was the sheer scale of damage inflicted on the UK economy from some of the most high-profile retail collapses of 2012.
All in all, the research shows that the overall losses suffered by trade suppliers, landlords, employees and HMRC on the 20 largest retailers to file for insolvency since the beginning of 2012 totals £1 billion. Within this total lies a £134 million cost to the UK taxpayer. Read more
The Information Daily | 10th April 2013
BBC staff have lost 785 laptops, tablet computers and mobile phones in the past three years, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.
Since 2010, BBC staff have misplaced or had stolen 399 laptops worth £598,500, 347 mobiles worth up to £104,100, and 39 tablets at £58,500, according to the FoI request.
And there has been a marked increase in the number of missing gadgets in the last year, with 350 laptops, mobiles or tablet devices lost or stolen in 2012, compared to 259 in 2011. Read more
Josh Halliday | The Guardian | 10th April 2013
LANDLORDS in the East of England have paid more than £100m in business rates on empty properties in the last financial year, the Taxpayers’ Alliance has revealed.
A Freedom of Information request for figures has showed that £100,978,346 was raised in business rates levied on empty properties in the region from 2011-12.
In East Herts, £1,351,284 was collected in 2009-10, £1,341,216 in 2010-11 and £1,607,146 in 2011-12. In Broxbourne, £912,662 was levied on empty properties in 2009-10, £1,018,597 in 2010-11 and £775,408 in 2011-12. Across Great Britain, more than £1.1bn was paid in empty property rates in 2011-12. Read more
Hertfordshire Mercury Business News | 10th April 2013
The company running the detention centre on Christmas Island has warned the government several times of a high threat of violence. Channel Seven reported on Wednesday that documents they obtained under freedom of information revealed services company Serco sent security intelligence summaries to the immigration department warning the threat of violence at the island’s centre.
Serco warned that tents could be used “as a source of weapons and a target for arson”. It advised the use of tents “as alternative or emergency accommodation should be reconsidered and an alternative sought”.
Three warnings were sent to the department in the latter part of 2012. An immigration spokesman told Seven on Wednesday the tents were still being used. Read more
The Sydney Morning Herald | 10th April 2013
Town halls across London are using “BBC-style” payment schemes which help staff avoid full income tax, the Standard has learned.
Thousands of local government workers are paid “off-payroll”, allowing councils to sidestep huge sums in national insurance.
The figures come after the BBC was forced to review the freelance contracts of more than 800 staff, including Jeremy Paxman and Fiona Bruce, who were being paid through their own firms.
The Local Government Association suggested the practice was not wide-spread in town halls.
But Freedom of Information requests found that Westminster, Wandsworth, Croydon, Hounslow, Kingston-upon-Thames and other councils were paying staff off-payroll or through personal service companies. Read more.
Pippa Crerar and Anthony Kimber | London Evening Standard | 28th February 2013
The government is considering how to curb repetitive and overly expensive Freedom of Information requests, a justice minister has said.
Helen Grant said central government had received 47,000 requests in 2011, “at a cost of £8.5m in staff time alone”, with local authorities “also affected”.
“Disproportionate burdens” were being imposed by “what we call ‘industrial users’ of the act”, she said.
But Plaid Cymru MP Elfyn Llwyd said she might be “over-stressing” her case.
In a debate in the Commons’ secondary debating chamber, Westminster Hall, Ms Grant said: “Despite the many benefits that the act has brought, we cannot ignore concerns raised about the burdens that it imposes on public authorities. Read more.
BBC News | 24th January 2013
A seriously disabled British soldier injured in Iraq is taking the Department for Work and Pensions to a tribunal next week after they cut his carer’s allowance.
Adam Douglas, 45, a former lance corporal with the East and West Riding Regiment (now the Yorkshire Regiment), was wounded in a grenade attack in 2003 and then hurt in an accident in Basra in 2006. He has had more than 20 operations on his spleen and spine but doctors say there is no more they can do. Though he regained some independence after being fitted with a device to help him better control his bowel and bladder functions, he says he still needs help washing and going to the toilet, and regularly uses a wheelchair.
He says that six successive doctors, including three appointed by the DWP, have agreed his injuries are serious.
But assessors from the department have stopped a £70 monthly allowance to Douglas’s wife, Maria, for help with his “bathing and toileting difficulties” after in effect accusing him, he says, of “faking” his injuries. The DWP said he had failed to inform them of a “change in circumstances”, essentially that his health had improved.
He used the Freedom of Information Act to get copies of the three medical reports carried out during the DWP investigation. The DWP uses a scoring range from one to three, three being the greatest level of impediment. Douglas says he scored three on all the back, leg and spinal examinations. Read more.
Helen Pidd and Simon Neville | The Guardian | 24th January 2013
A military training centre in Devon has “lost” more than 8,000 pieces of equipment including 115 bayonets since 2008, the BBC has learned.
A list revealed that 8,312 items, including 13 dummy hand grenades and 2,860 pieces of cutlery, had been lost from the Lympstone Commando Centre.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the public was not in danger.
It added that the term “lost” included misplacements, damaged items or could be the result of poor accounting.
‘Not necessarily mislaid’
The list of items, released to the BBC as part of a Freedom of Information request, included 600 magazine assemblies for the SA80 assault rifle – although no bullets were missing. Read more.
Graham Smith | BBC News | 24th January 2013
Over the past six months, 633 items were deposited with lost property at Westminster, while just 210 were reclaimed, figures obtained via a Freedom of Information request revealed.
Among the items taken to the office, which serves both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, were £335.88 in cash – including 20 £5 notes – plus €100 (£85), and bank cards.
Bizarre food items on the list included bananas in a rucksack, peppers in a plastic bag and two jars of orange marmalade. Read more.
The Telegraph | 25th January 2013
Under the new initiative, people can force police to investigate anti-social behaviour by submitting a “community trigger”, if they have previously reported trouble on at least three occasions.
Four areas were chosen to trial the idea, which is meant to empower local communities and will be rolled out as part of the draft Anti-Social Behaviour Bill.
However, a Labour MP’s research has found only a negligible number of people are taking advantange of the initiative, which is part of a wider programme to scrap and replace Asbos.
Gloria De Piero, a shadow Home Office minister, who obtained some of the figures under Freedom of Information Laws, said the new “triggers” do not go far enough to tackle repeated anti-social behaviour. Read more.
Rowena Mason | The Telegraph | 22nd January 2013
Civil servants waging the Government’s war on “skivers” are spending thousands of hours in the office looking at shopping, social networking and sport websites.
Figures reveal officials at the Department of Work and Pensions are logging on to sites like Facebook, Twitter and Sky Sports MILLIONS of times a year.
Google is the most popular website with 690,448,667 views.
The main BBC website is fourth on the list with 116,122,356 views and another Beeb link comes seventh with 76,556,091.
Facebook is fifth with 81,989,727 and Twitter is tenth with 48,796,467.
The other five websites in the top 10 are related to their work for the Government.
The figures were revealed under Freedom of Information laws. Read more.
Jason Beattie | The Mirror | 23rd January 2013
Thousands of children aged as young as 10 are being held overnight in police cells across South Wales every year, figures have revealed.
Nearly 3,000 youngsters aged between 10 and 17 were locked up after being suspected of committing crimes including arson, grievous bodily harm, rape and even murder, during 2010 and 2011.
The data, which was released under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws, equates to nearly four children being held every night of the year on average.
The FOI requests revealed that the practice of detaining youngsters overnight varies wildly across the country. Read more.
Sam Malone | Wales Online | 22nd January 2013
The government has called in London councils over concerns that homelessness numbers are soaring, after research revealed the scale of plans being drawn up to send families to live in temporary housing outside the capital.
As cuts shrink the number of properties affordable to people on benefits, more than 20 London local councils have rented properties as far as Corby, Cornwall, Blackpool, Southampton and Newcastle to house families that could end up on the streets in London.
Eighteen of those 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. Read more.
Randeep Ramesh | The Guardian | 3rd December 2012
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.
The extent of the potential property blight from the high-speed line linking London and Birmingham can be disclosed as opponents challenge the £34bn scheme this Monday at the High Court. The controversial 140-mile line, Britain’s biggest new infrastructure project, will slice through the Chiltern Hills to the north-west of London.
Activists from the HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA) have discovered through a Freedom of Information request that there are 43,000 homes at risk of property blight – meaning they are likely to drop in value or become hard to sell because of the scheme. Read more.
Michael McCarthy | The Independent | 2nd December 2012
The Metropolitan Police has received donations and sponsorship worth £22.7m from dozens of organisations over the past five years, the BBC has learned.
The figures were disclosed following a Freedom of Information Act request.
Donations ranged from football shirts provided by Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea to motorcycles and cars supplied by Land Rover, BMW and Nestle.
Scotland Yard said it had a “long history” of working with different partners to tackle crime. Read more.
BBC | 1st November 2012
It’s being called ‘the great brain robbery.’
New York City’s medical examiner’s office has kept the brains of more than 9,200 deceased New Yorkers — from the elderly to newborns — so newbie pathologists can practice their skills.
The discovery comes after three families publicly questioned whether or not the city is banking the brains for medical purposes.
Under The New York Post’s Freedom of Information Law request, the ME gave a list of 9,200 brains and 45 spinal cords removed between Nov. 1, 2004, and July 1, 2012. Some 7,700 brains were taken before the notifications began. Read more.
The Daily Mail | 29th October 2012
NEARLY 200 police officers in North Wales were injured in the line of duty last year.
A total of 142 male officers and 50 females were hurt, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.
The causes of officers’ injuries included being hit by a vehicle, slipping over, being injured by an animal or physically assaulted
The number of injuries sustained by officers, however, has fallen notably in recent years. Read more.
The Daily Post | 31st October 2012
GOVERNMENT spending on keeping files safe from Freedom of Information inquiries has doubled to more than $40 million a year in just eight years.
But during the same period the number of FOI applications fell by 40 per cent. So government agencies are spending much more on dealing with fewer demands for the documents of bureaucrats and politicians to be made public. About a third of information requests were rejected in 2011-12 and each application – successful or otherwise -cost about $1700. Read more.
Malcolm Farr and Lisa Cornish | Herald Sun | 31st October 2012