have in front of me a nine page ruling from the Information Commissioner’s
Office, plus a two page covering letter about a Freedom of Information request
refused by Bexley council at the end of 2010. Those nine pages attempt to
explain to Bexley council why every one of their excuses for refusing to answer
an FOI request was wrong in law. Bexley council has been told to comply with the
request; the answer will either be a simple “No” or if not, a figure with a pound
sign in front of it. Either way it is not a difficult one to answer, it requires
no research or adding up but Bexley council has fought long and hard to keep the
answer secret without any legal basis for it. I shall refrain from providing
further details until Bexley council gets around to obeying the law. However the
delay aroused curiosity about other areas in which Bexley might be performing
equally badly. Where does one start?
The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) had one or two interesting things to say about Bexley council, they keep records of how quickly councils respond to their enquiries. It shows that Bexley has got slower in each of the last three years and their average response time is now 36·5 days. The LGO compares Bexley with other councils and says it is in the worst 6% of London boroughs. There are only 32 London boroughs so being in the bottom 6% must mean Bexley is worst or next to worst with their performance on a downward trend. We hear a lot about Bexley having the lowest car parking charges in S.E. London and among the lowest council tax in Outer London (neither true) and that Bexley is top borough for recycling, which isn’t absolutely correct according to the capitalwastefacts (†) website, and now we know that Bexley is best (or maybe second best) with delaying tactics too.
Another recent LGO decision concerned education provision for Bexley’s deaf children. The usual privacy constraints prevent details being given but it seems that the problem has been going on for a long time. The Bexley Times reported more than a year ago on the dire situation Bexley council has allowed to develop.
† Click here for Capital Waste Facts spreadsheet and download the second on their list of three spreadsheets. Then select the Dry Recycling or Composting tabs, or more simply check this summary.