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Posts Tagged ‘Ministry of Defence’

Weekly News Round-Up: Ministry of Defence, drones and drink-driving

MoD study sets out how to sell wars to the public

The armed forces should seek to make British involvement in future wars more palatable to the public by reducing the public profile of repatriation ceremonies for casualties, according to a Ministry of Defence unit that formulates strategy.

Other suggestions made by the MoD thinktank in a discussion paper examining how to assuage “casualty averse” public opinion include the greater use of mercenaries and unmanned vehicles, as well as the SAS and other special forces, because it says losses sustained by the elite soldiers do not have the same impact on the public and press.

The document, written in November 2012 and obtained by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act, discusses how public reaction to casualties can be influenced and recommends that the armed forces should have “a clear and constant information campaign in order to influence the major areas of press and public opinion”. Read more

Ben Quinn | The Guardian | 26th September 2013

Court case aims to force MoD’s hand with Freedom of Information requests on drones

Britain’s controversial deployment of US-built Reaper drones in Afghanistan will come under scrutiny in court this week in a closed hearing that will see a UK-based drone operator give evidence for the first time.

The two-day hearing starts in London on Monday. It is expected to include testimony from a UK-based drone operator with “1,000 hours of Reaper experience supporting UK and coalition activities”. He will speak on behalf of the Ministry of Defence. Tom Watson, the chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group examining drones, will also give evidence.

The appeal to the Information Commissioner, filed by Chris Cole of the campaign group Drone Wars, comes after numerous Freedom of Information requests relating to Britain’s role in drone warfare were allegedly refused by the MoD. Mr Cole aims to challenge that stance, claiming public interest. Read more

Kunal Dutta | The Independent | 22nd September 2013

Thousands of dangerous drink-drivers are reoffenders

As new figures show the number of people killed in drink-driving crashes rose by 17%, the BBC has discovered that thousands of drink-drivers are repeat offenders.

A fifth of those on a DVLA “high-risk register” have been on it before.

There are calls for more stringent checks before offenders are given back their licences.

The government said it had tightened up rules, and drivers now had to prove they were no longer alcohol-dependent.

Drink-drivers who are more than two and a half times over the legal limit, who have two or more drink-drive offences within a 10-year period or who refuse to give breath, blood or urine samples, are classed by the DVLA as “high-risk offenders”.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, the BBC discovered there are currently 230,149 banned drivers on the DVLA’s scheme and of these, 42,207 drivers had been on it before. Read more

Nicola Beckford | BBC News | 27th September 2013

Revealed: how UK water companies are polluting Britain’s rivers and beaches

Revealed: how UK water companies are polluting Britain’s rivers and beaches

The most persistent and frequent polluters of England’s rivers and beaches are the nation’s 10 biggest water companies, an Observer investigation has revealed.

Pollution incidents, which have included sewage illegally pouring into a harbour for more than a year, and managers destroying records, show no sign of declining, according to data obtained from the Environment Agency (EA) under freedom of information rules. Only a third of the 1,000 incidents led to a fine (of an average of just £10,800); the rest resulted in cautions.

The EA data, obtained by the Request Initiative and analysed by theObserver, showed the most heavily fined company in 2005-2013 was Thames Water, which paid £842,500 for 87 incidents. Read more

Damian Carrington & Sophie Barnes | The Observer | 3rd August 2013

‘Big lie’ behind the bedroom tax: Families trapped with nowhere to move face penalty for having spare room

The Government’s justification for its controversial “bedroom tax” has been debunked by new figures showing that up to 96 per cent of those affected have, in effect, nowhere to move.

The figures published today in The Independent expose the false argument behind ministerial attempts to spin the move as ending the  “spare-room subsidy”, and confirm campaigners’ claims that it merely penalises poor people.

Yet more than 19 out of 20 families  hit by the bedroom tax are trapped in their larger homes because there is nowhere smaller within the local social housing stock to take them. This is shown by figures provided by councils in response to Freedom of Information requests by the Labour Party. Read more

Emily Dugan | The Independent | 5th August 2013

MoD spends £500 million on ‘advisers’ using money diverted from buying equipment in Afghanistan

Defence chiefs have spent  more than £500 million on lawyers and consultants while making thousands of troops redundant.

Most of the money has been siphoned off a budget that should have been used to pay for equipment in Afghanistan.

Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request reveal that the amount spent by the Ministry of Defence on ‘External Assistance’ – lawyers, management consultants, accountants and IT experts  – has doubled in the past  two years. Read more

Sean Rayment | The Daily Mail | 3rd August 2013

Civic ‘hypocrisy’ on public health

A Sunday Express investigation reveals that multi-billion pound local government pension pots are still being invested in firms such as British American Tobacco, despite the fact that councils are now obliged to help residents quit smoking and reduce their drinking.

There are 101 pension funds managing £146billion on behalf of 4.6 million public sector workers.

More than a third responded to Freedom of Information requests asking for a breakdown of which companies funds were invested in. Read more

Kirsty Buchanan & Mathew |The Express| 4th August 2013

Manus Island committee has never met, immigration department admits

Manus Island committee has never met, immigration department admits

The committee set up to oversee detainee processing times on the Manus Island immigration detention facility has never met, in direct breach of Australia’s deal with the Papua New Guinea government, a freedom of information request has revealed.

The joint committee was created, in part, to ensure proper treatment of asylum seekers housed in the centre. It is supposed to include representatives of the PNG and Australian governments and meet once a month. It was the only oversight body set up under a deal forged between the two governments in September and was meant to monitor the treatment of detainees and the length of their stay on Papua New Guinea. Read more

Paul Farrell, Luke Bacon, Lawrence Bull & Oliver Laughland  | The Guardian | 15th July 2013

UK soldier and veteran suicides ‘outstrip Afghan deaths’

More British soldiers and veterans took their own lives in 2012 than died fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan over the same period.

BBC Panorama learned that 21 serving soldiers killed themselves last year, along with 29 veterans.

The Panorama programme obtained the figure of 21 through a Freedom of Information request to the MoD. Read more

BBC | 14th July 2013

Bedroom tax ‘could make thousands of poor people homeless’

Bedroom tax ‘could make thousands of poor people homeless’

Tens of thousands of the poorest people in Britain risk being made homeless because of the bedroom tax, according to an analysis of councils’ assessments of the welfare cut.

From last month, housing benefit has been reduced to council or housingassociation tenants who ministers claim have more bedrooms than they need.

Data from 107 local authorities shows 86,000 households have been forced to look for one-bedroom homes, of which only 33,000 have become available in the past year. Read more

Randeep Ramesh | The Guardian | 27th May 2013

Legal aid cuts: what price justice?

In Sheffield magistrates court, Mr Zahedi has just been bailed; he only speaks Farsi. He is shaking his head as if a terrible mistake has been made, not by the court, not in the charge, but that his standing in this room at all, in his glass cage, is all the result of a factual error. He blows everybody a kiss in thanks. His bail conditions are that he stay away from a particular person; they can’t curfew him because he’s homeless. Most nights he sleeps behind the police station.

His solicitor, Lucy Hogarth, explains: “It took me and the clerk to persuade the court that they couldn’t remand him in custody, because the trial isn’t going to result in a custodial sentence. But the prosecutor wanted to lock him up.”

Her next client, Mr Oates, is up for benefit fraud, but the Department for Work and Pensions hasn’t sent the paperwork for two days, during which time he’s been held in a cell. “Without me asking,” Hogarth says, “he’d probably still be in there.” Read more

Zoe Williams | The Guardian | 24th May 2013

Paramedics ‘blacklist’ 600 Scottish homes

Nearly 600 homes across Scotland have been blacklisted as being too dangerous for ambulance crews to enter without police protection. The 593 addresses have been pinpointed because of previous attacks or threats on paramedics.

The statistics were obtained by the Conservatives under Freedom of Information legislation. The Scottish government said the figure was a “small proportion” of the country’s 2.5 million homes.

NHS Lothian had the most red flagged addresses, with 162, followed by Greater Glasgow and Clyde with 147, and Fife with 68. The Scottish Ambulance Service confirmed the snapshot for May 2013, which was an increase from the same time in 2012 when 437 addresses were red flagged. Read more

BBC | 26th May 2013

Investors target City regulator over handling of 2008 bank collapse

Campaigners fighting on behalf of almost one million Bradford & Bingley investors have fixed their sights on the City regulator.

The Bradford and Bingley Action Group (BBAG) has lodged a Freedom of Information request with the new Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to see whether its predecessor – the Financial Services Authority (FSA) – withheld information from shareholders in the lead up to the bank’s collapse in 2008.

Bradford & Bingley, best known for its bowler hat logo, was heavily exposed to the troubled buy-to-let mortgage market in the lead-up to the financial crisis. The lender ran into difficulties when funding from the wholesale money markets dried up. Read more

Jamie Dunkley & Roger Aitken | The Independent | 26th May 2013

Police pay £40m to translate inquiries

POLICE FORCES have spent nearly £40million on translators for suspects and victims unable to speak English over the past three years, an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has established. The Metropolitan Police paid out £7.1million on interpreters and translators in a single year. The London force listed 97 languages it has paid to translate, including African dialects such as Wolof, Yoruba and Oromo.

Rural constabularies have also spent substantial sums on language services. Thames Valley Police’s bill for translators and interpreters has exceeded £1million in each of the past three years. Forces in Kent, Norfolk and Lincolnshire have at times spent more than £400,000 a year on translation.

Polish, Romanian, Mandarin and Lithuanian are among the languages which police authorities most frequently require interpreters for. The figures – obtained using the  Freedom of Information Act – expose one of the hidden costs of years of high migration. Read more

Robert Watts | The Sunday Telegraph | 26th May 2013

How taxpayers are paying for Speaker John Bercow’s nanny to live in a grace and favour flat in the Houses of Parliament

The Commons Speaker is facing a storm of criticism after it emerged his children’s nanny lives in a taxpayer-funded apartment in the Houses of Parliament. John Bercow – who earns over £140,000 per year and has backed calls for pay rises for MPs – and his wife Sally have given their nanny the run of the housekeeper’s apartment near their own palatial rooms inside the Palace of Westminster.

The nanny’s accommodation in the Commons is entirely covered by the public purse, including the council tax and utility bills. The arrangement has been described as ‘indefensible’ by a former chairman of the Standards in Public Life committee. The Bercows, who have three young children, have separately acquired a riverside property nearby for £935,000 just four miles away.

Previously the couple said that their nanny was ‘live-in’. But according to details released after a freedom of information request, it now transpires that she lives in a separate flat consisting of one bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and a living room. Read more

Gerri Peev | The Daily Mail | 28th May 2013

Police Chiefs Fears over Bettison Quiz

SOUTH Yorkshire Police’s chief constable was keen to avoid questions about Sir Norman Bettison after the Hillsborough report, a previously secret email shows. The two men worked together at West Yorkshire Police before David Crompton left to head the South Yorkshire force.

They were in touch over Hillsborough before last year’s damning report, which revealed Mr Bettison’s role in the aftermath of the 1989 disaster. The day before the Hillsborough Independent Panel report, Mr Crompton and Mr Bettison swapped emails.

Mr Crompton, 49, told the then-West Yorkshire chief constable he did not expect a “direct focus” on him. But the HIP report, which exposed a police cover-up, did feature Sir Norman’s role – and led to calls for him to resign. And today we can reveal Mr Crompton was reluctant to answer questions over Mr Bettison, 57, after the details emerged. Read more

Jonathon Corke | The Daily Star | 28th May 2013

Just 6% of British army uniforms are made in the UK while £75million of manufacturing is outsourced abroad

Just six per cent of army uniforms were made in Britain last year under manufacturing contracts worth £5million while £75million worth of production was outsourced to India, China and Eastern Europe.

Struggling defence companies in the UK have been forced to lay off staff and open factories overseas in a drive to cut costs or risk losing contracts.

Senior Tory MP Patrick Mercer – a former Army colonel and former security spokesman – claimed there was a security risk involved with making the kit abroad and said ‘every soldier should have a uniform made in Britain’.  The staggering figures were released by the Ministry of Defence under a Freedom of Information Act request by Mail Online. Read more

Rob Cooper | The Daily Mail | 27th May 2013

Over 100 skipfuls of rubbish on roads and railways

LITTER louts drop enough rubbish at the side of Scotland’s railways and roads every year to fill 112 skips – or two Olympic-sized swimming pools. Figures released through Freedom of Information show 1,800 tonnes of refuse are collected each year, ranging from old furniture, washing machines and televisions, to food packaging, paper and cans.

The cost of the clean-up operation is about £60,000 a month. Last month, almost 4,000 hours were spent clearing litter from motorways in Glasgow and surrounding area.

Transport minister Keith Brown urged people to dispose of their rubbish responsibly. He said: “Scotland is a wonderful country and its natural beauty is a key factor in attracting tourists. Read more

Claire Gardner | The Scotsman | 25th May 2013

Owners bear the brunt of catalytic converter thefts

THEFTS of catalytic converters ripped from vehicles across Nottingham soared by over 300 per cent in 2011-2012, a Freedom of Information request by the Post has revealed. Figures in 2013 have also already overtaken total offences in 2009.

The crimes represent just under 20 per cent of all recorded metal theft offences in 2012. The data shows an increase of 256 offences over the 87 reported incidents in 2011. It is the also the highest recorded number of catalytic converter thefts over the past five years.

Police say intelligence shows that the crimes being carried out mostly by organised gangs. Catalytic converters, devices used to reduce output of toxic chemicals, are being targeted for the valuable elements they contain. Platinum and rhodium from converters can fetch hundreds of pounds on the black market. Read more

Tom Norton | The Nottingham Post | 24th May 2013

Fire crews save pets from peril

They were among hundreds of bizarre calls to firefighters in Courier Country — including a cat that got its head stuck in a TV. A freedom of information request has revealed a series of strange animal emergencies such as a Perth iguana that got stranded on a roof and a dog that trapped its head between railings in Dundee’s Whitfield area.

Some of the more distressing calls included a dog impaled on a fence in Aberargie, a dolphin that got into difficulty at Moncrieffe Island and a horse that had to be put down after falling into a well in Auchterarder.

Data was requested from all eight of Scotland’s former fire services to cover the last five years, however only three responded with results. Since 2008 there have been almost 139 calls to animal-related incidents in Tayside compared with around 670 in Strathclyde since recording mechanisms changed there in 2009. Read more

Graeme Bletcher | The Courier | 27th May 2013

Sharp drop in school attacks

The number of physical attacks by pupils on teachers in Bassetlaw has dramatically reduced in the past year, according to new figures. Data obtained through the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act shows there were zero recorded incidents between 2012-13 – compared to three in 2011-12 and 13 in 2010-11.

According to Notts County Council, the recorded attacks happened at Portland and Valley in Worksop and Elizabethan and Retford Oaks over the past three years. Of the total number of physical attacks, three resulted in exclusion, six pupils were verbally reprimanded and three cases put down to special educational needs.

There were no verbal attacks recorded over the same period. Katy Williams, director of business services at Outwood Grange Academies Trust, which governs Portland and Valley, said the data was a clear indicator of Outwood’s approach to discipline. Read more

Worksop Guardian | 25th May 2013

USA: Lawsuits seek more than U.S. acknowledgement of drone killings

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama is facing demands in court to reveal more about the U.S. drone program, despite his speech addressing it on Thursday and his government’s acknowledgement a day earlier that four Americans have died in drone strikes.

Civil liberties advocates, news organizations and the families of those who died have brought lawsuits in New York, Washington and Oakland, California, challenging the government’s refusal to provide information.

Now that the drone program’s existence has at last been confirmed, government lawyers on Wednesday indicated they would abandon their previous arguments, which did not confirm or deny the drone program. In the case in Oakland, they said they would give a new response to the Freedom of Information Act request filed by the First Amendment Coalition within 30 days. Read more

David Ingram | The Chicago Tribune | 23rd May 2013

USA: EPA out of control

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative advocacy group, has sued the Environmental Protection Agency seeking an explanation of why it has been denied waivers of fees for provision of documents while environmental groups almost always got waivers. Just more evidence EPA is becoming a law unto itself.

Christopher Horner of CEI used a Freedom of Information Act request to examine document requests over about 15 months. His own requests for waivers were denied 14 out of 15 times; requests from environmental groups were granted 75 of 82 times.

Every time Horner appealed (he didn’t say how many times that was) his request was granted. EPA’s inspector general says he will look into the accusation; the acting EPA administrator, Robert Perciasepe, says EPA’s policy is not to discriminate in waivers and anyway, documents increasingly are provided in electronic form, which incurs no fee. Read more

The Boston Herald | 26th May 2013

DENMARK: City Council moves to counter freedom of information act

The oft-criticised freedom of information act (offentlighedslov) proposal received another blow yesterday when the Copenhagen City Council approved a proposal from Enhedslisten (EL) aimed at maintaining transparency at the council level.

EL’s proposal is based on a principle that citizens and the media should enjoy the highest amount of transparency possible when attempting to gain insight into council policymaking.

“The City Council must, as much as possible, work towards transparency and openness in our administration and I am really pleased with this law,”  Rikke Lauritzen, an EL spokesperson, told Berlingske newspaper. Read more

The Copenhagen Post | 24th May 2013

TURKEY: Reporters Without Borders Condemns Sentencing of Sevan Nişanyan

Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the sentence of 13 and a half months in prison that an Istanbul magistrate’s court passed yesterday on Turkish-Armenian journalist Sevan Nişanyan for posting “insulting” comments about Mohammed in his blog.

“Nisanyan’s jail sentence is a grave violation of freedom of information and sends a threatening message to fellow journalists and bloggers that is unacceptable,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It should be overturned on appeal. Suppression of comments critical of Islam has no place in a secular country such as Turkey.”

“We have often hailed the gradual weakening of Turkey’s Kemalist – secularist, nationalist and militarist – taboos but democracy will not benefit if they are replaced by a new religious censorship.” Read more

Reporters Without Borders | 24th May 2013

IRELAND: Central Bank warned in advance over Joyce coin

The Central Bank was warned about potential design and copyright problems before it issued the flawed €10 James Joyce commemorative silver coin last month.

Department of Finance officials alerted the Central Bank on at least two occasions about the possibility of difficulties with the James Joyce estate over copyright and design. The details are contained in documents obtained by RTÉ News under Freedom of Information.

The coin sold out within two days of being issued on 11 April, despite carrying on its front an error in a quotation from Joyce’s most famous work, Ulysses, alongside an image of the author that was not approved by his estate. Read more

The Irish Times | 24th May 2013

Superstrong, telepathic – the bionic soldiers of the future: How radical technology could transform British troops within 30 years

Superstrong, telepathic – the bionic soldiers of the future: How radical technology could transform British troops within 30 years

Warfare may be an awful thing, but it has a habit of accelerating health technology in ways that are helpful to everyone. For example, in World War II the Allies made significant medical advances in vital areas such as developing antibiotic drugs — which the Germans didn’t possess — and performing lifesaving blood transfusions.

Now, however, the military is developing an alarming new interest in the human body and brain. It wants to create armies of mutant soldiers, equipped with unstoppable physical and mental powers.

Within 30 years, according to newly released Ministry of Defence papers, British soldiers should be able to lift huge weights, run at high speeds over extreme distances, have infra-red night vision built into their brains, and even be capable of transmitting thoughts by electronically aided telepathy. Read more

John Naish | The Daily Mail | 30th April 2013

Manchester Town hall rapped by information watchdog

Manchester council is to be investigated over claims they take too long to respond to Freedom of Information requests. Town hall bosses will be monitored by officials from the Wilmslow-based Information Commissioner’s Office this quarter after a ‘significant number of complaints’ were received over their inability to respond within the statutory time limit.

By law, the council has to provide a response to an FOI request within 20 working days. Anybody can submit a request although in certain circumstances officials can refuse to release certain details.

The council will be monitored until June 30 and failure to show signs of improvement within that period may result in enforcement action. Read more

Andrew Stuart | Manchester Evening News | 30th April 2013

ARMENIA: Red Flags Raised Over State-Funded NGOs Lack of Activity

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—President Serzh Sarkisian’s staff has allocated some 500 million drams ($1.2 million) in grants to three dozen non-governmental organizations that have generally avoided publicizing their activities purportedly including human rights advocacy.

The Yerevan-based Center for Freedom of Information has obtained detailed information about the funding, provided from 2010-2012, from the Armenian Finance Ministry. The latter had to make it available in accordance with Armenia’s freedom of information legislation.

Hardly any of the 31 recipients of the presidential grants has been covered by the Armenian media to date. The government data shows that many of them were founded and registered with the Justice Ministry shortly before receiving state funding. Read more

Asbarez Post | 29th April 2013

Generation of ‘X-Men’ superhumans could become a reality in 30 years thanks to advances in gene science, say MoD experts

Generation of ‘X-Men’ superhumans could become a reality in 30 years thanks to advances in gene science, say MoD experts

A generation of genetically-modified ‘X-Men’ superhumans could be among us by 2045, a Ministry of Defence think tank has said.

Advancements in gene technology could help humans gain mutant powers such as the likes of Wolverine, Cyclops and Storm in the popular comic book and movie series, it has been reported.

The MoD’s Development Concepts and Doctrine Centre warn however that ‘genetic inequality’ could result from advancements in biology being unequally shared across society.

The centre met last summer for a two-day summit, featuring experts from government, industry and universities. The details have been released following a Freedom of Information request by The Sun. Read more.

James Rush | Daily Mail | 25th February 2013

Hackney Council in personal data breach

Papers published on Hackney Council’s website have inadvertently revealed the personal data of a number of residents, an investigation by the Hackney Citizen has found.

Among the personal details discovered were the names, addresses, email addresses and mobile phone numbers of more than thirty residents who had been in touch with the council recently about licensing decisions.

The data featured in documents which had been partially redacted, but redaction had not always been done correctly, allowing personal details to be accessed by anyone who viewed the papers. Read more.

Philip Nye | Hackney Citizen | 25th February

Sri Lankans expelled from UK allege torture after deportation to Colombo

Sri Lankans expelled from UK allege torture after deportation to Colombo

Fifteen Sri Lankan nationals have claimed they were tortured and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment after they were forcibly removed to the country by the UK Border Agency, the Home Office has said.

In a freedom of information (FoI) request, the Home Office revealed that between the end of the island’s civil war in 2009 and September 2012, 15 failed asylum seekers managed to escape back to Britain after being removed by the agency, the UKBA. They subsequently won refugee status after giving evidence to officials saying they were tortured in Sri Lanka.

Kulasegaram Geetharthanan, a solicitor in the UK, said that one of his clients, understood to be one of the 15 mentioned in the FoI statement, had been gang raped and tortured by Sri Lankan security services after being forcibly removed to the capital, Colombo, on a specially chartered UKBA flight in 2011. Read more.

Shiv Malik | The Guardian | 12th February 2013

Nearly 450 British military drones lost in Iraq and Afghanistan

Almost 450 drones operated by the British military have crashed, broken down or been lost in action during operations in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last five years, figures reveal.

The Ministry of Defence has disclosed for the first time the five Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) systems used in the conflicts and the number that have perished due to pilot error, technical faults or the undesirability of retrieving them from hostile areas.

The figures highlight the military’s increasing reliance on technologies that are regarded as a way of minimising risks to frontline troops. Officials say the UAVs have operated for thousands of hours on sensitive operations.

The MoD released details of the UAV incidents under the Freedom of Information Act, conceding that their operations were “viewed by some as contentious and there is therefore strong public interest in being as open and transparent as possible” about their use. Read more. Read more.

Nick Hopkins | The Guardian | 12th February 2013

How To Be An MP is the most borrowed book in Parliament

The work, by veteran Labour MP Paul Flynn, is a step-by-step guide on how to placate constituents, advance one’s career, claim expenses and fend off an inquisitive press. It was borrowed 19 times last year from the Commons library, figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show – more than any other title.

It offers tips on how to ‘doughnut’ – or surround a speaker in Parliament in order to create the impression on television that the session is well-attended – and how to prevent a political career from derailing a marriage.

Chapter titles include “How to convince voters that the MP never stops working”, “How to dilute boredom”, “How to Climb the Greasy Pole” and “How to write an Abusive Letter”. Read more.

Matthew Holehouse | The Telegraph | 12th February 2013

£500m spent on education of civil servants’ children at private schools

What a rip-toff: Taxpayers spend £500m to send top Government’s officials kids to posh public schools

Taxpayers have forked out £500million in just three years to send top Government officials’ children to posh public schools such as Eton.

A Mirror investigation can today reveal the highly paid civil servants are getting a £26,000-a-year perk towards Britain’s most expensive education.

Just last year alone, the Foreign Office splashed out £27million for 717 children of diplomats.

The Ministry of Defence and Department for International Development are also spending tens of millions of pounds on the extravagant freebie.

[The Mirror’s] revelations – which can be disclosed after a year-long Freedom of Information fight was won this week – come as thousands of families have their child benefit payments slashed. Read more.

Steve Myall | The Mirror | 10th November 2012

Deadly weapons find at Commons

COPS guarding the Houses of Parliament have seized a huge arsenal of deadly weapons from visitors, The Sun can reveal.

Police have confiscated fake firearms, hundreds of knives and even swords at security checkpoints.

The shocking haul exposes cops’ daily battle to keep MPs and peers safe — and raises fears that a modern-day Guy Fawkes will one day beat the system. Our Freedom of Information requests reveal officers found 433 knives in the past three years as visitors passed metal detectors and X-ray scanners.

They also confiscated three fake guns, a knuckle-duster, a catapult, three telescopic batons, a cosh and a meat cleaver. This year’s haul includes a sabre and a sword. Read more.

Craig Woodhouse | The Sun | 11th November 2012

Scotland: A compelling case for transparency on radiation risk

The slow drip of worrying news about the radioactive contamination at Dalgety Bay does nothing for the people of Fife but engender fear.

Today’s revelations in the Sunday Herald that Government scientists have discovered a near-doubling in the incidence of cancers among people living near the contaminated zone will inevitably cause disquiet locally.

With concern, though, comes frustration – and the people of Fife, indeed Scotland at large, have every right to be angry with the Ministry of Defence. If it wasn’t for this newspaper pursuing the truth about the level of radioactive contamination under Freedom of Information legislation, the public would still have no knowledge of local cancer rates. It is better to know the truth, however potentially unpalatable, than to remain ignorant of possible health risks. Read more.

Herald Scotland | 11th November 2012

The private litter firm dishing out 700 fines a week: Company pockets £1.6m from town hall deals

A private company is raking in cash by fining more than 100 people a day for dropping litter, according to a report.

Members of the public are being treated as ‘cash cows’ by over-zealous litter patrols who work for a firm that has signed lucrative commission-only contracts with councils, say critics.

At least 12 local authorities have employed one business, Xfor, to issue on-the-spot fines. It keeps at least £35 from each £75 penalty notice its staff hand out.

Freedom of Information requests show that the company, run by ex-Armed Forces personnel, has pocketed £1.6million of the money it has raised from tickets handed out by 51 members of staff. Read more.

Ian Drury | Daily Mail | 12th November 2012

Gwent Police pays £200,000 to informants

THE bill for paying informants by Gwent Police over the last five years was nearly £200,000, it has been revealed.

The force paid £193,760 for information, contributing to a total of almost £900,000 across the Welsh police forces.

The revelation comes after Freedom of Information requests by Plaid Cymru. Figures show that the top force for paying informants is the South Wales Police Force, paying out £530,755. Read more.

South Wales Argus | 12th November 2012

The day in FoIA: Sandhurst links with oppressive regimes and police taser use at record high

UK spent millions training security forces from oppressive regimes

The UK government has spent millions of pounds on training military, police and security personnel from oppressive regimes that have arms embargoes in place, the Guardian has learned.

In the last five years, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have received from the UK government £2.4m between them in training and support for military and defence personnel.

In information revealed in a freedom of information response from the Ministry of Defence a total of £75,406 has been spent on providing 44-week courses at the elite Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for Sudanese and Congolese forces. Other support includes military logistics, advanced command and staff courses, strategic intelligence and evaluating challenges to state sovereignty

Read more.

Diane Taylor and David Smith | The Guardian | 25th September 2012

Three people are shot every day with Tasers

Three people are shot every day by police armed with 50,000-volt Taser stun guns, figures revealed last night.

The potentially deadly devices were deployed in almost 4,500 confrontations last year, more than ever before.

The latest figures were revealed in a series of requests to every force across England and Wales under the Freedom of Information Act.

Read more.

Chris Greenwood and Jack Doyle | Daily Mail | 24th September 2012

Riot failures at Broadmoor: Bosses tried to play down four-hour rampage at home of some of Britain’s most notorious criminals

Broadmoor bosses have admitted the ageing hospital’s “physical structures failed” in a night of violence.

Trust officials tried to play down a four-hour rampage on a ward, home to some of Britain’s most notorious criminals.

They referred to the incident last year as merely a “disturbance”.

But a letter in response to a Freedom of Information Act made by the Mirror reveals for the first time the 149-year-old mental health unit’s “physical structures failed” last August 30.

Read more.

Andrew Gregory | The Mirror | 5th September 2012

Release of council staff emails about failed merger project sparks Breckland Council review of openness procedures

Emails revealing a council’s apparent reluctance to reveal how much a failed money-saving project cost it have prompted a review of its commitment to openness.

The exchanges between Breckland Council officers about an EDP request for information about the proposed merger of senior staff with Yarmouth Borough Council were released following a second Freedom of Information Act request.

The project, which Breckland Council said would save its taxpayers £100,000 a year, was dropped after Labour councillors opposed to the scheme won control of Yarmouth in May.

Breckland Council said it had complied with its legal obligations to release information, but admitted “in some of the emails our attitude to FoI requests comes across as negative and reluctant”.

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Martin George | EDP24 | Tuesday 25 September 2012

MoD procurement might escape taxpayer FoI scrutiny

MoD procurement might escape taxpayer FoI scrutiny

Plans to privatise a Ministry of Defence body that spends billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money could restrict the public’s ability to ask questions about how their money is spent, Publicservice.co.uk understands. And Labour has said the move could allow the government to avoid “difficult” questions.

The revelation comes amid growing concerns that bodies across the public sector are escaping their obligations under the Freedom of Information Act as they are merged and re-organised by the government.

Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), set to spend £150bn over the next 10 years as the MoD’s procurement arm, could become a government owned contractor operated (GOCO) entity under proposals announced by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond. A final decision is expected this year.

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Mathew D’Arcy | Public Service.Co.Uk | 23rd July 2012

Confusion and secrecy over sale of former RAF Coltishall to Norfolk County Council.

Site owner the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) confirmed to the EDP on Friday that contracts had not yet been exchanged for the former Battle of Britain fighter base, which closed in 2006.

But both a leading county councillor behind the bid and a spokesman for nearby residents opposed to the sale say an NCC officer clearly stated at an inaugural meeting of the Community Liaison Reference Group – set up to brief interested parties and help them shape plans – that the exchange had taken place.

However, an NCC press release issued after the July 12 meeting qualified that announcement, claiming that there had been “an initial” exchange of contracts.

The puzzle comes as the MoJ has refused, for a second time, to disclose details surrounding the sale of the 600-acre base following a Freedom of Information Act (FoI) request from the EDP.

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Alex Hurrell | EDP | 23 July 2012

Fury as taxpayers fork out £1m a year for fire chiefs’ posh cars

FIRE bosses are driving around in a fleet of luxury cars costing taxpayers almost £1million a year.

Commanders of Scotland’s cash-strapped fire services zoom about in sport versions of Audis, Lexus, Mercedes and BMWs.

They also drive top-of-the-range 4x4s thanks to a perk of the job.

Last night, they were slammed by furious firefighters who are facing multi-million-pound cuts when Scotland’s eight brigades merge next year.

The bumper bill for about 200 commanders’ motors was exposed by a Freedom of Information Act request.

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Janice Burns | Daily Record | July 23rd 2012

Abolition of councils on agenda for Irish Cabinet

PROPOSALS to abolish a number of town councils and reform freedom of information legislation are among the issues to be brought to Cabinet tomorrow, the last meeting before the summer break.

About 25 councils out of 80 are at risk of abolition because of their limited range of functions. Town councillors receive an annual payment of €16,700 and any cuts will also have an impact on council staff.

Local government reform proposals by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan are on the list for Cabinet, but senior Government sources have described it as a “long agenda” for the last meeting until September.

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Marie O’Halloran and Martin Wall | Irish Times | 23rd July 2012

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