Oliver Price


With a science background, having studied a bachelors in astrophysics, Oliver Price has developed data skills which he uses to uncover stories that would otherwise go unreported.

Oliver started investigating school taxi contracts at Birmingham Council after being emailed by a council insider, who was given his details by a mutual acquaintance, saying they had an intriguing story about corruption.

His source said that two school taxi companies were being allowed to overcharge by millions of pounds and provided leaked data for Oliver to analyse. To confirm the story, Oliver needed to come up with a fair value for money comparison. After months of Excel work he did this by creating his own special unit, a ‘PupilMile’: the distance travelled on a route multiplied by the numbers of pupils on it.

Oliver then created Excel pivot tables which conclusively proved a £14m overspend between two firms, Green Destinations and AFJ, by comparing their ‘cost per PupilMile’ average to that of one of their major competitors. He discovered the reason for the extraordinarily high costs was that these firms had an abnormally high number of routes with just one child in a cab.

Talking to the council press office was challenging as they repeatedly refused to answer Oliver’s questions.

After analysing public data Oliver later revealed that all of the council’s 163 school taxi contracts had published values of exactly £64,938.27. He also analysed payments data revealing a £116m difference between contract values and invoice amounts. Collating the payments data involved merging thousands of data entries and manually configuring pivot tables to capture any payments which fell under school transport services, as the recording was inconsistent and used varying descriptions. Oliver was invited to a council audit committee meeting where a procurement boss was unable to account for the missing money.

He is currently in an FOI battle over an internal audit report, which the council says shows no evidence of fraud. The council has refused to disclose it but Oliver has appealed to the ICO. Oliver has multiple sources within or formerly within the council and Green Destinations who have revealed details of who is behind this scandal, but he has run into legal difficulties after the council denied the claims.

These stories have garnered significant national interest since Birmingham Council went bankrupt, and Oliver believes he has only touched the tip of the iceberg.

In a separate project, Oliver analysed FOI data from most English ambulance services on Category 2 calls (serious but not immediately life threatening) which were upgraded to C1 (immediately life threatening) to discover that 64 patients in London died after dangerously long waits saw their condition significantly deteriorate and their call upgraded. The analysis revealed that 4,700 patients had to wait more than 40 minutes in C2 before calls were upgraded to C1. Egregious examples included where a patient reporting breathing problems died after a nearly three-hour wait as a C2 call before they were upgraded to C1 and seen in seven minutes.