Tuesday, 13 January 2009

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION FOR TORIES ONLY?

One of the great problems as an Opposition councillor is getting information from the Town Hall. Regularly on Scrutiny Committee I have to repeat the same questions over several meetings to get relevant information. My Labour colleagues frequently find the same problem. Recently there was a Freedom of Information request by the Liberal Democrats to find out about how many Councils across the country are being hard hearted in the current economic circumstances.

I looked at Kent here are the local figures

Kent Authority...................Court Summons ....Bailiff Visits.... Bankruptcies
Canterbury..............................6,926.....................2,189................1
Shepway................................6,995.........................956...............0
Thanet..............................er.................. there's nothing here......................

Now I know from casework that Thanet does use court summons so there must be some figures somewhere. An efficient well-run authority would have these figures readily to hand. 170 other local authorities readily produced figures.

They are a useful management tool. So 3 possible explanations. The Liberals did not contact Thanet, seems unlikley they wrote all over the country. It could be Thanet’s records are so poor they do not know how many people the bailiffs are sent to visit, or it has the figures but decided to ignore the law of the land and not respond to the Freedom of Information (FOI) request. Having never had a respose to the only time I ever made a request under the FOI I think this is the most likely explanation.

I want Thanet to improve as a Council, it needs to give more priority to Freedom of Information requests and welcome public scrutiny.

Ignoring requests is a sorry and unacceptable state of affairs.

4 comments:

  1. TDC seem highly skilled at misquoting and outright bluffing to avoid answering questions. One time a question about public artefacts and public money was denied with a reference to the "Data Protection Act" I am required to be quite knowledgeable about this act for my job and can assure you it only covers personally identifiable data about individuals.

    That is of course when they are not playing dumb and pretending they don't know what you are talking about.

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  2. Hi Mark welcome to the world of Thanet blogging I have added you to the recent comments on http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/ sidebar and if technology allows will try to put you on http://thanetblogs.blogspot.com/ as I can see your posts are likely to generate some lively comment.

    I see you’re using the latest version of blogger comments, that identifies wordpress users etc, I had quite a few problems with it so will be interested to see how you get on with it.

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  3. I'll be adding you to my blog too within the next hour or so...

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  4. Ignoring FoI requests is not just a sorry and unacceptable state of affairs, it is a breach of the law - sect 10(1) of the FoI Act 2000. Any such failure should be reported to the Information Commissioner, take a look at:
    http://www.ico.gov.uk/

    A failure to comply with any other part of the act should be similarly reported. Joe Public is the master of local authorities not their servant.

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