Thursday, 27 January 2011

Secrecy Issues

One of the few things that I agree with the Tory government on is the initiative to require councils to publish details of all spending over £500. As you might have guessed I'm a big fan of accountability in general and, as I've found out via my own freedom of information requests to NCC there are frequently bits of spending that NCC would prefer we didn't find out about.

It therefore didn't come as a huge surprise that, according to a report in the Post, this idea doesn't meet with the approval of a certain council leader. JoCo is quoted as having 'flatly refused' to comply with the requirement on the basis that council officers have got "much better things to be doing". Like illegally awarding themselves council houses for example.

This whole idea that it will all be far too much work is an obvious red herring. The initial work would be quite considerable but presumably the ongoing publishing could be built into financial systems. And the more information that is routinely published the fewer freedom of information requests that the likes of me will need to submit which will be a significant saving in itself.

It's an easy accusation to make that the reason for Collins' lack of enthusiasm is because he and his cronies are obsessed with secrecy but my experiences of trying to get information out of NCC does support such a view. I've got at least three outstanding requests where NCC has simply not bothered to respond and they all involve spending commitments involving significant dodginess.

Amusingly, someone has already put in a FoI request for the financial data concerned, asking for it to be provided in the format the government has specified. It will obviously be refused, almost certainly on cost grounds which will be a massive political faux pas for a Labour council in the face of a requirement by a Tory government.

1 comment:

Fair Pay said...

I doubt it would be all that much work to set up the reporting systems, Andy.

Unless NCC has a totally insane purchase ledger system, it's at most a few hours work to write out a few SQL statements. Hardly rocket science.

Councils are about to come under increased pressure for transparency thanks to the new code of practice.

You might find this of interest:

http://fairpay.org.uk/87/Greater_Transparency_in_Local_Government87_1.html