Hospitals have lost more than 2,300 nurses since David Cameron came to power, a new study reveals.
The shocking figure adds to fears that patients’ lives are at risk and come days before the report into the Mid-Staffordshire neglect scandal comes out.
A key factor in the deaths at Stafford Hospital was a nursing shortage, say Whitehall sources.
In August 2012, there were 166,604 nurses in vital jobs such as A&E units at hospitals – 2,306 fewer than in May 2010. The figures, obtained under freedom of information rules, are a blow to the PM’s claims that he would not axe key NHS staff. Read more.
Vincent Moss | The Mirror | 3rd February 2013
New government plans to change the way Freedom of Information requests are costed have been criticised by regional press industry leaders.
Currently councils and other public authorities cost each request individually, but under the proposed changes, they would be able to group together the cost of requests from indidviduals or groups – including journalists working for the same newspaper.
This means that more requests are likely to refused on the grounds of cost.
The Newspaper Society and the Campaign for Freedom of Information have protested against the plans, claiming the changes would hit regional newspapers and MPs hardest. Read more.
Charlotte Cross | Hold the Front Page | 1st February 2013
The Independent has reported that Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has been instructed, under the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) to release messages sent from his personal email account.
Hitherto, private email accounts have been used by senior ministers and their advisers to ensure the contents cannot be seen by civil servants and to keep them outside the scope of FoIA requests. However, Information Commissioner Christopher Graham has decided that the emails were covered by the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act as they concerned Government business.
Government advisors have privately admitted the use of such personal email accounts to discussing sensitive subjects on private emails to combat the risk of Labour-supporting officials leaking the contents. Mr. Gove had been using his wife’s ‘Mrs. Blurt’ email account to discuss governmental issues with advisors, and the Information Commissioner’s ruling centred on a December 2010 email Gove had sent to the private email addresses of two special advisers, as well as a civil servant and MP.
A spokesman for Mr Graham said: “The Commissioner’s decision is that the information amounted to departmental business and so was subject to freedom-of-information laws, being held on behalf of the Department for Education.
“The department is now required either to disclose the requested information – the subject line of the email and the date and time it was sent – or issue a refusal notice in accordance with the FoI Act giving reasons for withholding it.” In a statement yesterday, the Campaign for Freedom of Information said: “The decision closes off two potentially vast loopholes which would have allowed industrial-scale evasion of the FOI Act.
“The Commissioner has made it clear that Government business carried out via private email accounts is subject to FOI – otherwise all departmental business would have switched to Hotmail accounts.”
The Independent reports “the Department for Education has 28 days to lodge an appeal against the decision with the Information Tribunal. A spokesman said it was considering its next step”.
Freedom of Information request reveals dramatic drop in refuge centres for victims of domestic abuse
Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) have shown that the government cut funding of refuge centres for abused women by nearly a third last year. The Independent comments: “The sums of money involved are, in governmental terms, tiny” and attacks government for trying “to shrug responsibility for the cuts on to local authorities”.
Next week will see Theresa May announce pilots of “Clare’s Law”, under which women may enquire to the police into whether their partner has a history of domestic violence. But recent changes to legal aid rules will leave nearly half of the victims of domestic violence without the means to bring their abusers to justice.
£22m of public money has been spent on a market research survey that could have funded the Great Britain Olympic sailing team for four years, The Times reports.
A Freedom of Information investigation has revealed the Active People Survey has cost 3 to 4 million pounds per year, leading to heavy criticism by the TaxPayers’ Alliance. Its chief executive Matthew Elliott said: “The legacy of the Olympics should be a record medal haul and a bright sporting future, not tens of millions frittered away on poorly thought out and badly targeted initiatives.”
The newspaper reports the survey was launched in 2005 under the Labour government and “was used to track whether NGBs would deliver half of the extra two million participants sought by the Government as a result of Britain hosting the Games.”
The coalition went on with the policy even though it was criticized as flawed and ineffective in reflecting the true picture of national activity.
The Times quoted Don Foster, co-chairman of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Policy Committee on Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport who condemned it as an “extremely expensive exercise”.
Croydon council refuses to reveal information about £450m project
This Is Croydon and Inside Croydon both report that the Information Commissioner has criticised the local council for refusing to reveal the full details of its £450m Urban Regenertaion Vehicle (URV). The council, which chose to withhold information about its contracts with John Laing and other property developers under sections 41 and 43 of the Act, must answer the ICO before February
Briefing meeting ahead of FoIA review
Campaign for Freedom of Information is organising a briefing meeting on January 18 at 2pm, ahead of the upcoming review of the Act by a parliamentary committee that is expected to recommend changes to the law. The meeting is addressed to those who consider giving evidence and in order to reserve a place you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)20 7831 7477.
The Justice Select Committee will review the Freedom of Information Act later this year and is likely to recommend changes to the current legislation. This may improve the Act but some public bodies are expected to call for new exemptions and cost-based restrictions.
The committee is currently calling for submissions for evidence until the the 3rd February and the Campaign for Freedom of Information is holding a briefing meeting for those who are considering submitting on January 18 at 2pm.
Requesters’ experiences are essential to the review process, and are being sought after. The Ministry of Justice says there is currently “limited evidence” about requesters’ views.
Lord McNally and the Deputy Prime Minister pledged to begin the process of post-legislative assessment of the Freedom of Information Act last December. As part of this process, a parliamentary select committee has been set up and is likely to recommend changes to the law concerning the Freedom of Information Act.
Government has already submitted its assessment of how the Act has worked in practice, including how it is used and its impact on public authorities. This memorandum specified some areas of concern in increasing request volumes, the cost to public authorities; and the level of protection given to cabinet papers.
Public authorities concerned about the cost of dealing with FOI requests pile on the pressure and could lead to increased restrictions.