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Bonkers Blog August 2011

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18 August - Turning their backs on democracy and the law

Teresa O'NeillThe children get six weeks holiday in the summer, MPs get seven but Bexley’s cabinet isn’t going to meet for 13. The interval between full council meetings has been stretched to 16 weeks, but the information blackout goes further than that. Freedom of Information (FOI) requests are being held well beyond the legal dates. One in particular is intriguing and it could, if only it had been answered honestly, possibly have revealed electoral fraud. The fact that the FOI was made in April and four months later Bexley council is refusing to talk about it only reinforces the view that their first priority is a cover-up.

When I was trying to get hold of councillors’ addresses one of my colleagues thought the easiest way would be to FOI the electoral nomination papers and sent one in as a sort of test. As it happened I found the address that FOI should have revealed the same day and mentioned my success here. Mr. Chris Loynes who is one of Bexley council’s most senior officers and whose job it is to nanny councillors phoned my colleague and said “you won’t need this form now will you?” but didn’t get the answer he hoped for. He was asked to pop a copy in the post. Four months on he still hasn’t done so. In fact when chased for it he said he had destroyed the nomination form. Wearing his other hat of Deputy Returning Officer, Mr. Loynes was entitled to destroy the form one year after the election it referred to. The Electoral Commission recommends the forms are kept but it is not illegal to destroy them after twelve months. Bexley council doesn’t abide by recommendations or guidance; it is a law unto itself and destroying the form prevented any electoral fraud being uncovered.

It is illegal for anyone to destroy evidence requested under FOI and the offence is punishable by a £5,000 fine or imprisonment. Since the form was destroyed various FOIs have gone in seeking copies of the correspondence that flowed between various council officers involved with that failed FOI. None have been answered. Mr. Loynes appears to have gone AWOL. There are complaints outstanding against councillors for their bad behaviour and it is Mr. Loynes job to oversee them. Once again the only response is silence.

Getting closer to home; when a well-wisher (thank you Mr. Fuller) suggested to me that I submit a Subject Access Request to Bexley council (under the Data Protection Act) to reveal what they have been saying about me I naively thought it was a brilliant idea. However as Bexley council is refusing to obey the law of the land my Request is getting nowhere. I last asked the council “why the delay” two weeks ago and their same day reply said “Thank you for your reminder about the outstanding response to your Subject Access Request. I have chased up the response today”. It is five weeks overdue. I suspect it is Will Tuckley and leader Teresa O’Neill who are intent on being the law-breakers.

I have sent a full report to the Information Commissioner but their inbuilt delays suggest I may hear nothing until the end October. It seems a long time into the future but it’s sooner than the next public council meeting.


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