Government lawyers have defended a decision by the attorney general to keep secret Prince Charles’s lobbying of politicians. They told the high court that Dominic Grieve was entitled to veto the publication of the prince’s letters to government ministers. The lawyers urged the lord chief justice, Lord Judge, and two other judges to reject a legal challenge by the Guardian to see the letters.
Jonathan Swift, the government’s QC, said on Thursday Grieve had acted properly when he kept the letters concealed. For eight years, the government has refused to disclose letters written by the prince to ministers following a freedom of information request by the Guardian.
The heir to the throne has for many years been accused of secretly lobbying ministers to influence government policy. At the heart of the two-day high court hearing is a veto used last October by Grieve to override a verdict by a freedom of information tribunal. Read more
Rob Evans | The Guardian | 9th May 2013
A race row about austerity cuts affecting black middle management in local authorities has resurfaced following a complaint by trade union Unison to Lambeth Council.
Earlier this year, the Freedom of Information data revealed a disproportionate number of black and minority ethnic employees that had been let go from their jobs. Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, expressed her concerns that councils were using austerity as “a convenient excuse to get rid of certain groups.”
However, Unison has now claimed that senior management is now refusing to hire staff at risk of redundancy to vacant jobs, which they have laid out in a complaint letter and have also accused them of failing to provide vital information for unions to monitor possible racial discrimination. Read more
Mary Isokariari | The Voice | 9th May 2013
Reports detailing the NYPD’s infiltration and surveillance of the Muslim community are not subject to public scrutiny under the Freedom of Information Law, a Manhattan judge ruled Wednesday.
Supreme Court Justice Alexander Hunter said the NYPD acted reasonably when it rejected a FOIL request on those activities by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and Muslim Advocates.
The groups sought records about what the police found in the city and tristate area, how they decided where to look, statistics they collected, and legal and policy guidelines that they followed, saying press reports have suggested the NYPD’s targets were chosen because of ethnic and religious identity. Read more
Barbara Ross | New York Daily News | 8th May 2013
Hungarian non-governmental organisations have warned that changes to limit the scope of the country’s Freedom Of Information Act could increase corruption.
Transparency International Hungary, public spending watchdog K-Monitor, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and investigative reporting website atlatszo.hu yesterday announced that they were quitting a government-run anti-corruption working group in protest at the law changes.
Their concerns relate to an amendment to Hungary’s Freedom of Information Act tabled by two MPs from the governing Fidesz party on April 28 and passed on April 30 by a special sitting of the country’s Parliament. Read more
Nick Mann | Public Finance International | 9th May 2013
Unison survey highlights impact of FE cuts
Union raises concern over what it calls ‘the devastating impact’ funding cuts are having on learners and staff at further education colleges all over England.
A new freedom of information survey, sent by Unison to all of the 248 further education colleges in England, reveals what the union calls “the devastating impact government funding cuts are having on learners and staff”.
More than 60% of respondents said they have had to close courses – from a-levels to part-time adult learning – as a result of budget cuts and changes to funding eligibility rules.
Ed Exec | July 27th 2012
Hospitals and police paying for BMWs and Jaguars at time of austerity
Hospitals and police in Wales are splashing out millions on cars including swanky Jaguars and BMWs for staff while shedding hundreds of jobs and slashing services.
The spending has been slammed by a leading MP as an outrageous extravagance at a time when so many public sector posts are being axed.
Details released to WalesOnline through a Freedom of Information request show South Wales Police has spent around £300,000 on luxury cars including a Jaguar XF and a BMW E70 X5 for chief officers.
Darren Devine | Wales Online | July 29th 2012
Library stalls on release of credit records
The Windsor Public Library should not be withholding the corporate credit card statements of its former CEO from the public, according to the city’s freedom of information co-ordinator.
“You can’t do that … it’s a corporate record, not a personal record,” said Chuck Scarpelli, the city’s manager of records and elections.
Delays in releasing information requested by The Windsor Star has triggered the curiosity of Mayor Eddie Francis, who had also requested in the spring that council get the same financial information. While the WPL is a separate public entity, the city provides almost all the library’s annual funding.
Doug Schmidt | The Windsor Star | July 27th 2012
Keep research away from prying FoIs, say MPs
A cross-party group of MPs has recommended a change in the law to prevent unpublished research data being released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The exemption should be introduced to “protect ongoing research”, the Justice Committee said in a report, Post-Legislative Scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, that was released yesterday.
Universities UK has been campaigning for such a change to the act on a number of grounds.
David Matthews | Times Higher Education | July 27th 2012
Keeping track of football hooligans
VIOLENCE, vandalism and drunkenness are hitting the region’s transport networks on match days as figures reveal transport police are dealing with hundreds of incidents every year.
Alarming figures, uncovered by the Sunday Sun, show that 700 incidents on trains in the region in the the last three years were linked by police to football.
And in that time 544 people were arrested by British Transport Police, our Freedom of Information request showed.
Rachel Wearmouth | The Sunday Sun | July 29th 2012
Cameron’s Big Society in lack of support
David Cameron’s Big Society plan which urges workers to contribute financially to charities doesn’t seem to move lots of his peers. According to the Daily Mirror, a FoIA request revealed just four MPs have signed up to his drive. This year, the overall number of people involved in payroll-giving schemes is down at 4,000 from last year’s 720,000.
Osama Bin Laden heir uses FoIA in bid to access visa-related data
Osama Bin Laden’s son used a FoIA request in an effort to access the full documents of his visa refusal according to recently published extracts of former Immigration Minister Phil Woolas’ s dairy. The extracts were published in the Mail On Sunday and reflect his anger with the way the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is “crippling the immigration system”.
Fianna Fail TDs lobbied for appointment of six judges
FoIA request procedures revealed that six judges were appointed to the bench after representations by Fianna Fail Teachta Dálas on their behalf. The Sunday Times reports that judges’ appointments in Ireland are subject to political influence, a condition that creates an “unhealthy lack of transparency” in the judiciary.
Public sector workers’ union income comes under scrutiny
The Sunday Telegraph has reported that more than £68 million of public money is spent on trade union jobs. But trade unions claim this practice actually saves money, since union representatives help to resolve worker disputes without going to court. Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: “Workers and employers need unions more now than ever before”. Cabinet Minister Francis Maude, said that a consultation to reduce the time civil servants can spend on union work and end the employment of full-time union officials is already under way.
Scottish council indebted to private companies for millions of pounds
The Daily Express and the Herald report Scotland’s South Ayrshire Council has amassed an unjustifiable debt of £400 million to private companies in charge of building five new schools. As the data exposed under the FoIA legislation reveal, the local authority will have to pay more than £1 million a month for the next 30 years to pay back the deficit.
GPs’ patient lists full of discrepancies
London GPs have lost track of the number of people registered, a FoIA submitted by The Politics Show on BBC One, reveals. The information collected shows the total registered in the capital to be approximately nine million while the actual population is 7.75.
Most surgical operations in Wales’ hospitals are likely to be cancelled
Figures released under freedom of information show that the number of operations cancelled in some of Wales’ largest hospitals are more than those carried out with the number of cancellations rising from 25,802 to 26,312 during the last year. As the Western Mail reports, the lack of ward capacity is more often than not the reason of the cancellations.
Revenue officer sacked after posing as an accountant
The Sunday Times reports a female executive officer in Revenue was forced to resign after it was revealed she was charging almost £400 to process tax returns and make unwarranted refunds to her clients, while posing as an accountant. FoIA requests indicate she was caught after a tip-off from a member of the public in October 2008.