new around here may need a little refresher course on Nick Johnson. He was
Bexley’s Chief Executive before Will Tuckley and was as cosily tucked up with the
then council leader Ian Clement as Will Tuckley is with Teresa O’Neill. Another
mutual admiration society.
Mr. Johnson retired on grounds of ill health in November 2007 and by the following March had miraculously recovered to take a similar job in Hammersmith leaving Bexley taxpayers with a £50,000 a year pension bill on top of the reported £300,000 pay-off. Mystery surrounded the detail; time for some Freedom of Information (FOI) questions.
The first of these was for details of his pay, annual increments and their dates. It turned out that he went from £153,468 in December 2003 by annual increments to £167,211 in July 2007 and for no known reason to £198,480 two months later. The obvious next question (30th June 2011) was “Why the £31,000 jump”. “A technical adjustment” said Bexley council. The speculation was that a conveniently timed pay increase agreed over one of Ian Clement’s credit card funded dinners in a posh restaurant would nicely boost Nick’s pension.
The next FOI (12th July) asked for the nature of the technical adjustment to be explained and Bexley council went very quiet indeed. Several further enquiries were made about the fate of that FOI with no further information forthcoming and on 9th September the matter was reported to the Information Commissioner (IC). Six weeks later Bexley council was told to answer the FOI within ten days. They expire next week.
Bexley’s attitude to FOIs is appalling. Just a few days ago I referred to the nine page lecture on the law delivered by the IC to Bexley council and the Nick Johnson question provokes another two pages. His covering letter reveals something of the IC’s frustration with Bexley. It refers to the 20 day limit being “statutory” (section 10 of the Act) and to “serious contraventions of section 10 are recorded and persistent contraventions will result in placing a public authority on our monitoring programme. Our monitoring programme is proving very successful at improving practices amongst public authorities who have shown a long term reluctance or inability to respond to information requests within the statutory timescales". After explaining that even stronger sanctions can result in further delay the ICO informs the questioner that if he wishes that step to be taken he is "able to do so” because “your concerns have been taken seriously. Thank you for bring this matter to the attention of the Information Commissioner.”
Do I detect that with so many FOIs (plus at least one Subject Access Request) being ignored, the Information Commissioner is losing patience with Bexley council?
Previous blogs about Nick Johnson…
• 2 November 2010 - More greed and amoral behaviour. It’s endemic!
• 18 April 2011 - Don’t tell audit
• 6 May 2011 - Where feeble men fear to tread
• 12 June 2011 - Freedom of Information
• 28 July 2011 - Newsreel