A chief constable used a publicly-funded credit card to spend thousands on restaurant bills and more than £1,000 buying flowers, it has been revealed.
Sean Price, who is currently suspended from his role at Cleveland Police, based in Middlesbrough, spent over £55,000 on his corporate card over a five-year period.
Just over half the total was spent on hotel stays, with around £7,000 spent on restaurants.
Another £1,350 was spent in one purchase from a furniture supplier while smaller-scale spending was also recorded with the likes of John Lewis, Argos and Marks & Spencer.
Spending on the card is forming part of an ongoing police inquiry into a range of allegations surrounding Cleveland Police Authority and the Cleveland force.
Any wrongdoing identified could result in either misconduct or potential criminal charges against Mr Price.
A law firm representing Mr Price, who lives in North Yorkshire, said he was unable to comment on the details of the spending while investigations continued.
The credit card data was obtained via freedom of information requests.
Emily Allen | Daily Mail | 16th April 2012
More than a thousand sickness benefit claimants died last year after being told to get a job, [the Mirror] can reveal.
[The Mirror] highlighted worries about the controversial medical tests for people claiming Employment Support Allowance which are being used to slash the country’s welfare bill.
The Government has boasted that more than half of new claimants are found “fit to work” – failing to mention that over 300,000 have appealed the decision and almost 40% have won.
[The Mirror] used the Freedom of Information Act to discover that, between January and August last year, 1,100 claimants died after they were put in the “work-related activity group”.
Read more here.
Nick Somerlad | The Mirror | 4th April 2012
New police corruption alleged in secret report
Corrupt police officers are accused of deleting intelligence reports from the national police computer on the orders of criminal gangs in a secret report passed to the Leveson inquiry.
The confidential report produced by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) in 2008, found that private investigators, linked to organised criminals, used corrupt serving and former police officers to delete intelligence records from law enforcement databases and access details of police operations. The report has been seen by Channel 4 News Home Affairs Correspondent Andy Davies.
The eight-page report, which has been passed to the Leveson inquiry into police corruption and media ethics, warns of “rogue” private investigators “providing organised crime groups with counter-surveillance techniques” and attempting to discover the identities of informants and witnesses under police protection.
The details in the report entitled “Private Investigators: The Rogue Element of the Private Investigation Industry and Others Unlawfully Trading in Personal Data” have never been disclosed publicly before, because the report is labelled “exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act 2000″.
Read more here.
Andy Davis | Channel 4 News | 30th March 2012
Revealed, snoopers charter will cost YOU £2bn: Huge price of plan to let state spy on websites, emails and texts
Big Brother plans to spy on all internet visits, emails and texts will cost the taxpayer £2billion.
The extraordinary bill was revealed amid revelations that Britain’s snooping watchdog has grave doubts about the mass surveillance project.
The Office of the Information Commissioner said the case had ‘not been made’ to justify the sweeping expansion in the power of the police and other public bodies to trawl through private communications, including visits to Facebook and eBay.
Ministers say the changes are needed to keep pace with technology. But the concerns of the Information Commissioner’s Office were uncovered by the Tory MP Dominic Raab, using freedom of information requests.
Read more here.
James Black | The Daily Mail | 2nd April 2012
Conservative MP, David Mowat has used the FoIA to reveal that “around 3,000″ BBC workers have avoided paying PAYE tax by billing the BBC through personal service companies,reports the Telegraph. Furthermore, 31 of these have not had tax deducted at source from their £100,000 a year salaries. 318 on salaries of £50,000 reportedly have similar arrangements.
The Telegraph writes: “The true figure could be higher as the BBC said it excluded “talent” such as high-profile presenters and reporters, as well as people working in commercial subsidiaries”.
Stephen Barclay, a Tory MP on the Public Accounts Committee, said: “This [FoIA] reply shows that there is a need for much greater transparency at the BBC because the figures do not include so many people from BBC’s talent – which covers its main presenters – and its commercial operations.
The findings follow last month’s disclosure that Ed Lester, chief executive of the Student Loans Company, was potentially allowed to avoid paying thousands of pounds in tax by being paid through a private firm in a deal approved by the Coalition.
Thousand of paedophiles, drug dealers and violent thugs caught trying to get jobs as teachers.
“Paedophiles, violent thugs and drug dealers were among more than 4,000 offenders who applied to become teachers last year despite having almost 10,000 criminal convictions between them,” reports that Daily Mail.
In 2011, the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) refused 4,098 out of 263,477 applicants for school jobs, who, between them, shared 9,493 convictions. These include 50 sex offences, 11 for arson, and two for death threats.
Separate figures showed that sex offenders and hundreds of violent criminals applied to work in nurseries last year. A CRB spokesman said: “Criminal records checks have helped to stop at least 130,000 unsuitable people from working or volunteering with children or vulnerable people”.
Spain moves towards freedom of information law amid outrage over corruption
Freedom of information in Spain has come one step nearer after newly elected government agrees to introduce bill, reports the Washington Post.
Spain is one of the few European nations without freedom of information legislation. However, the country’s cabinet has agreed to put forward legislation that will allow Spaniards to find out more about how their money is spent by government.
The goal of the new law is to make public officials at all levels much more accountable for how they spend taxpayer money. The Washington Post reports: “Under the new bill, information on subjects including senior public servants’ salaries and detailed data on government contracts and subsidies will be published online. Spaniards will also be able to file requests for other kinds of information providing it does not breach national security or personal privacy.”
Freedom of Information requests obtained from 91 Primary Care Trusts in England by Pulse, a magazine for GPs, showed that 25 had brought in new restrictions on treating obese patients or smokers since last April.
Statistics show that people are being denied IVF treatment, breast reductions and fat–reduction operations based on their weight and whether they smoke.
Dr Clare Gerada, the head of the Royal College of GPs, said some of the restrictions, particularly for IVF, were “dreadful”. She added: “It’s becoming the deserving and the undeserving. I think it’s discriminatory and I find it astonishing.
“The Government should determine what should be applied universally.”
In case of one trust, NHS Bedfordshire, anyone with a body mass index above 35 deemed to be severely obese is barred from having hip or knee surgery. This is equivalent to a 5ft 5in woman weighing 15 stone or a 6ft man weighing 18 and a half stone.
Steve Nowottny, the deputy editor of Pulse, said: “In some cases there may be genuine clinical justification for rationing treatment on these grounds. But there is a growing suspicion that some PCTs are now blocking access to surgery for smokers and the obese simply to help achieve ever greater efficiency savings.”
However, managers at Health Service trusts insisted that such restrictions are in people’s ‘best interests’.
Scottish councils are “profiteering” at the expense of retailers, The Scottish Grocers’ Federation say
Scotland’s convenience stores are each down an average of £4000 because of liquor licensing regulations introduced two years ago, fueling allegations local authorities are “profiteering” at the expense of retailers, the Herald Scotland reports.
According to figures released under the Freedom of Information legislation, 11 out of 27 Scottish councils have made money running into hundreds of thousands of pounds from the new licensing regime since 2009, despite the statutory requirement for it to be cost-neutral.
The Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF), said the figures showed retailers paid “hand over fist for a system so lacking in transparency, accountability, consistency and proportionality”.
“These figures show licence holders are paying over the odds for a system which is cumbersome and which is lining the pockets of some local authorities” SGF chief executive John Drummond said.
SNP ‘failed to comply’ with the law, the Information Commissioner said
The Scottish information commissioner has ruled that the Government of Scotland “failed to comply” with the law after ministers blocked a request for the release of documents showing communications between the SNP administration and the party’s biggest donor, Stagecoach owner Sir Brian Souter, the Scotsman reports.
The commissioner heavily criticised ministers for not releasing the correspondence involving Sir Brian, who was knighted last year, just months after he donated GBP500,000 to the SNP’s election war chest during last year’s election.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have received the Scottish Information Commissioner’s decision and are considering its terms.”
Higher education staff may be forced to disclose personal email communication related to public businesses, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said.
The ICO is the public watchdog responsible for the implementation of the FoIA legislation. Following the controversy surrounding the use of personal emails by Department for Education officials, the Information Commissioner stated access to gmail, hotmail or yahoo accounts should be allowed under the Freedom of Information Act, if the information pertains to public issues.
“Information held on personal, non-work email accounts can still be subject to disclosure under the legislation,” the ICO said in its new guidance. The commissioner also advised any FoIA requesters to ask members of public bodies whether they hold information in a personal email account.
The announcement follows the recent uproar caused when it was revealed Dominic Cummings, the special advisor of the Department for Education secretary, refused to use the department’s official email address.
“I will only answer things that come from gmail accounts from people who I know who they are. I suggest that you do the same in general but that’s obviously up to you guys – I can explain in person the reason for this,” he said.
Allegedly, Cummings preference was based in the conviction that gmail accounts of government officials are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act.
Apparently, according to The Independent the practice of using private email accounts is widespread in Whitehall, a fact that gives the ICO’s decisions added gravity.
Alarming Afghan civilian casualties by UK forces over the past six years
More than 30 Afghan civilians have been killed by UK army forces from 2005 to last March, the Guardian, reports. The figure was released – albeit with a nine-month delay- after a FoIA request to the Ministry of Defence.
Fox to justify former flatmate’s involvement to MoD affairs
Liam Fox, the defence secretary will be forced to respond to allegations he wrongfully allowed his former flatmate, best man and personal friend Adam Werritty gain access to his ministry and present himself as an official adviser.
FoIA requests have revealed Werritty, who is not a government employee, visited Fox as MoD’s headquarters 14 times in the past 16 months. This adds up to an accumulating list of questions about Werritty’s involvement in Fox’s political activities and whether he is seeking to profit financially from his links to him. The story was reported by the Daily Mail and the Guardian.
Scottish civil servants claim thousands of pounds for union work
The Daily Express and the Herald report certain civil servants have received almost £670,000 during the past two years, just for working full-time for unions like PCS, Prospect and the First Division Association, to the expense of the Scottish taxpayer.
Tory MSP Alex Johnstone criticised the massive payoffs saying: “If they are employed by the Scottish Government then that is who they should be working for at a time when we cannot afford any excess spending in the budget.”
PCS Scottish secretary Lynn Henderson rebuked Johnstone’s comment by labelling it a “cheap attack” on their own civil servants. The overbloated salaries of the union members were revealed after a FoIA request.