£543m cost of botched Tory NHS reforms: Cuts leave hospitals in critical condition
Ministers have spent £543million in the past two years to rescue hospitals struggling to keep afloat because of the Government’s NHS cuts and reforms.
Figures obtained by the Daily Mirror reveal dozens of hospital trusts in England have had to be bailed out with emergency funding.
Since 2011, 13 trusts have received £299million from the Department of Health because they ran into serious financial difficulties.
Details obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request show the Department of Health spent £254million in 2011-12 and £45million this financial year on additional support for NHS Trusts which had run into financial trouble. Read more.
Jason Beattie | The Mirror | 27th February 2013
Figures obtained under Freedom of Information Act reveal white applicants up to twice as likely to get place, despite same grades
Oxford University has been accused of “institutional bias” against black and minority ethnic students after figures revealed that white applicants to some of the most competitive courses are up to twice as likely to get a place as others, even when they get the same A-level grades.
Figures for applications to the university in 2010 and 2011, obtained by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act, revealed that 25.7% of white applicants received an offer to attend the university, compared with 17.2% of students from ethnic minorities. Read more.
Kurien Parel and James Ball | The Guardian | 26th February 2013
Matthew Sinclair of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said the bill run up by Greater Manchester force since April 2010 “beggars belief”.
He added: “Taxpayers will be aghast that their cash has been spent like that when there is real pressure on budgets. There are plenty of other ways of checking phone numbers or the time.”
Greater use of the internet actually led to a big decrease in calls to the 118 and 123 numbers last year, figures released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal. Read more.
The Express | 26th February 2013
Royal powers of veto over laws to be made public
Details of secret powers held by senior members of the Royal Family granting veto over Government legislation could me made public after a decision by the Information Commissioner.
The Cabinet Office has been told to hand over papers which guide ministers on when and how to consult the Queen and Prince Charles over new laws.
It follows a Freedom of Information request by campaigners amid mounting concern over the Prince of Wales’s intervention in public life on issues ranging from architecture to nanotechnology.
Jonathan Brown | September 1st 2012
Tony Blair to be honoured with Parliament bust
Tony Blair could return to the House of Commons – but as a work of art rather than in person.
The former Labour Prime Minister is currently missing from the otherwise complete set of sculptures in the Members’ Lobby representing Prime Ministers of the 20th century.
But minutes from the Commons’ Works of Art Committee meetings, released under Freedom of Information legislation, reveal that Mr Blair has agreed to sit for a portrait bust of himself.
Rosa Silverman | The Telegraph | August 31st 2012
Price of land for high-speed rail link between Birmingham and London slashed 90 per cent by the Government
The cost of land to be used for development of the high-speed rail line between London and Birmingham has been dramatically reduced by the Government.
Officials have cut the ‘landscape value’ of some of England’s finest countryside by as much as 90 per cent, it was reported.
The new figures were only discovered after campaigners against the 109-mile route going through the London green belt and the Chilterns – an Area of Outstanding Beauty (ANOB) – made a number of request under the Freedom of Information Act.
Daily Mail | September 2rd 2012
Oxbridge students’ drunken antics revealed under the Freedom of Information Act
They are Britain’s foremost academic establishments, attended by the very elite of society.
But details of appalling behaviour by students of Oxford and Cambridge universities, recently released under the Freedom of Information Act, suggests the best and the brightest are also some of the most depraved.
Discipline reports issued by 15 Oxbridge colleges chart hundreds of drunken incidents, many involving police and paramedics, that have taken place since 2010 alone.
Daniel Miller | Daily Mail | September 3rd 2012
Cambridge University hit by record number of bomb hoaxes
Bomb hoaxers targeted Cambridge University 42 times in the first six months of this year, the News can reveal.
Figures released under freedom of information laws highlight the scale of the disruption to students and staff this year as a result of bomb scares.
The data shows the number of alerts at the university increased in the last two years from 16 in 2010, 10 in 2011 to 42 between January and June this year, when the scares reached their highest level.
Cambridge News | August 31st 2012
A Freedom of Information investigation revealed Coca-Cola has been lobbying Ireland’s health minister James Reilly and opposing a proposed sugar tax, The Sunday Times has reported.
The proposal aspires to combat obesity and generate revenue but representatives of the company that also owns Fanta, Sprite, Minute Maid and Powerade see it as a discrimination against one type of drink.
The newspaper mentioned France has already introduced a tax on sugary drinks, while Hungary and Denmark have brought in more wide ranging “fat taxes”.
David Cameron’s government is also considering introducing a similar levy in the UK, while the idea of its implementation in Ireland is being considered by an action group set up by the health minister last year.
A spokesman for the health department said: “The minister is very concerned about the high levels of obesity in all age groups of the Irish population.”
One in four Irish children are overweight or obese at three years of age, according to a recent survey by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
SLC head attacked for tax avoidance
A letter disclosed after a Freedom of Information request to the HM Revenue and Customs by Exaro News and BBC’s Newsnight, exposed the Student Loans Company (SLC) chief’s tax avoidance. According to The Guardian, Ed Lester is being paid via a private service company, saving tens of thousands of pounds in tax by paying corporation tax of 21% on his earnings, instead of an income tax up to 50%.
Universities remain biased
Data released under the Freedom of Information act show that despite Government pressure on universities to become more diverse, state school students with straight A grades are less likely to get accepted to Oxford University than bright teenagers from private schools. The Telegraph also reported that minority ethnic groups had a far lower acceptance rate than white students.
MPs spend over a million on ‘vanity’ art
The Sunday Mirror reported that MPs have spent over £1,1m in the past five years for the maintenance and extension of the Parliamentary Art Collection. Data released under FoIA reveal the expenses include a painting of Tony Blair and a £10,346 portrait of ex-Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell.
Thousands of pounds squandered by the NHS
The Press Association reports that the NHS is spending £60,000 a day on translation and interpretation services. The disclosure follows FoIA requests by the think-tank 2020Health.
Energy firms like EDF Energy, npower and Centrica have been providing the government with employees to work on energy issues, free of charge, The Guardian reports.
Figures released after FoIA requests by Caroline Lucas, the Green party MP, show that at least 50 employees have been placed in departments for secondments of up to two years.
Lucas said: “Companies such as the big six energy firms do not lend their staff to government for nothing: they expect a certain degree of influence, insider knowledge and preferential treatment in return. At such a pivotal time in the UK’s energy and climate change policy, as ministers must get to grips with the realities of climate change, rising costs and energy insecurity, the strong presence of vested interests is a real cause for concern.”
The disclosed data reveals that since it was first founded in 2008, the Department of Energy and Climate Change has hosted 36 people from business or consultancies, including EDF, Centrica, oil company ConocoPhillips, lobby group the UK Petroleum Industry Association and Energy Solutions, and a US nuclear waste treatment company.
The Guardian reports that staff from the energy business have also been appointed to positions in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The FoIA revelations also included the number of times Decc officials have been meeting with energy industry representatives. In total, Decc’s ministers met with energy companies and their lobby groups 195 times and just 17 with green campaign groups.
Oxford ‘scouts’ get less than the minimum wage
A Freedom of Information investigation by student journalists has revealed that while Oxford is one of the wealthiest universities in the world, many of its cleaning staff –also known as “scouts”- are paid less than £7.20 an hour. The Guardian reports that one of the worst offenders is St John’s, that pays its cleaners £6.49 an hour.
Reckless drivers are being let back on the street
The Western Mail reports that more than 58,000 motorists with multiple drink-driving convictions are being allowed to get back behind the wheel. The data released under the Freedom of Information Act show that one driver from Carmarthenshire is back driving after being disqualified over six times for driving above the limit.
The data will shed light on the events that resulted into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans attending an FA Cup semi-final at Sheffield Wednesday and will include an emergency Cabinet meeting called by Margaret Thatcher, the then Prime Minister.
An independent panel is currently scrutinising the information, most of which is likely to be released next year. At the same time, as the Guardian reports, more than 100,000 people have signed an e-petition calling for “full government disclosure and publication of all documents” following a freedom of information request by the BBC.
The need of transparency is enhanced due to the smear campaign of the Sun who just four days after the disaster presented Liverpool supporters’ alleged “mass drunkness” as the cause. The news story headlined “The Truth”, also made claims about some fans urinating on police and injured fans and picking victims’ pockets as they lay on the pitch.
Although the paper did make attempts to apologise, the publication was deeply traumatising for the victims’ families, with some feeling it swayed public opinion toward believing that version of events.
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister is backing the release of the documents: “The truth is the best antidote to people’s anger and suspicion, so we have got to get the truth out there. We are saying as a government we will give over all of the Cabinet papers. Everything that is normally the subject of Freedom of Information requests. We give it over to the panel and they can then have discussions with the families.”
Coalition’s links to lobbying under scrutiny
Government ministers meet up with corporate representatives almost two times more than charities and ten times more than union representatives, the Guardian reports. Tamasin Cave, of the lobbying transparency group Spinwatch, said the records are indicative of corporate networks of influence over government but warned they exclude the meetings held in a private capacity.
Cave’s organisation is currently engaged in a freedom of information battle with Cabinet minister Mark Harper who is supervising the coalition’s plan to introduce a lobbying registry. She alleges that Harper is resisting a FoIA request to reveal details of meeting about lobbying transparency.
Alistair Darling struggles for power over the Bank of England
A FoIA request that might reveal details of Alistair Darling’s call for legal aid to overrule Sir Mervyn King is currently under examination, as the Observer reports. According to the newspaper, Thomas Patterson, who is the chief economist of the news service, Gold Made Simple, has asked the Treasury for any documents connected to the chancellor’s call and although the request is covered by two exemptions, the ministry is weighing up the public interest in revealing the information.
Darling’s call for legal advice followed his exasperation with the governor of the Bank of England, who according to his own words “behaved like some kind of Sun King”. The final FoIA reply is expected by 1 November and will reveal important data in a time when the Bank is about to get a whole raft of new powers.
NHS cuts put sick and premature babies’ lives at risk
A survey conducted by the charity the Bliss found massive redundancies of nursing posts, freezing of vacancies and positions downgrades that would vulnerable babies’ lives at risk. The findings came after Freedom of Information requests by the charity to all neonatal units in England.
Oxford University invests in US arms manufacturer involved in cluster-bomb trade
FoIA requests submitted by the Independent revealed Oxford University has invested £630,000 in Lockheed Martin, a US defence giant with outstanding contracts to refurbish old stocks of cluster munitions.
Oxford University Endowment Management (OUEM) has also invested in other defence companies but the Lockheed deal is highly controversial because Britain has signed the Cluster Munitions Convention that bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster bombs. Apparently the OUEM deal was closed through a loophole in the current legislation.
Council officials have a field day on taxpayer’s expense
An investigation led by the Telegraph hints to a scandal similar to that of the MPs’ expenses. This time the taxpayer-funded expenses of council officials indicate a shocking wastage by the local authorities.
The newspaper reports that more than 100 chief executives are paid more than the Prime Minister and they receive the most generous public sector pension packages in Europe. The documents were obtained after a Freedom of Information request.