Friday, 18 March 2011

Golf Wars and Other Secrets

Bulwell Hall Golf Course. Anybody give a shit? Some people apparently do.

Nottgirl did a piece on it a year or so ago, basically saying that the Jack Barker Golf Co got a rather generous deal when they took over the running of the place. She mentions that a commenter on a 'Post' article also expressed concerns but the comment was later removed.

The grounds maintenance part of the agreement has recently come up for renewal recently and portfolio holder Cllr Trimble has made a decision to bypass normal financial procedures and simply agree an extension. This seems to have upset the Tories who have had the decision subjected to call-in.

So far so dull. To me, golf is just a way to spoil a nice walk in the park and the reasons for extending don't seem too suspicious. I'm not even in a position to wonder about the VFM aspects of the original agreement as I don't know the going rates for golf clubs. However, this affair does cast a bit of light on some aspects of how both the Labour and opposition councillors' respective worldviews.

In a seemingly unrelated move, NCC has just released its latest whinge about revealing financial information (explaining 'once and for all' as they put it on Twitter, like we are all a bunch of rather thick schoolchildren).

In this rather unconvincing rant NCC says -

"...that the information published by other local authorities and the Department for Communities and Local Government does not improve transparency or accountability because it doesn't let people judge value for money or the need for the expenditure."

This is of course bollocks and this particular portfolio decision shows why. You see, NCC routinely makes all financial aspects of these decisions i.e. the cost to us, the local taxpayers, confidential under sch 12A of the LGA which allows councils to withhold information -

"...relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information)."

among many other things.

I'm not convinced that the purpose of this part of the act is to keep details of the amounts of money paid to contractors secret and it could of course mean that all sorts of woes are kept hidden. In fact if NCC's interpretation is correct Eric 'Buffoon' Pickles' demands to release all expenditure over £500 would be unlawful.

Could it be that JoCo and the team's fear of accountability stems from the fact that we would at last be able to make a judgment on the value for money of some of their decisions*?

The second thing this issue tells us is that the Tories on NCC care more about golf clubs than organisations such as the Council for Equalities and Human Rights Nottm and Notts cos they didn't lift a finger when Hassan Ahmed cut their funding and that has now resulted in its closure. Talk about fucked up priorities.

*In this case, somebody who knows about golf courses obviously, not me.

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