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Bonkers Blog May 2013

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16 May (Part 2) - Total secrecy at all costs

DiaryAt the end of May last year, a time when Bexley council was systematically ignoring Freedom of Information requests, someone hit upon the bright idea of seeking possible justification of Will Tuckley’s quarter of a million pound salary by requesting a copy of the chief executive’s business diary.

The request didn’t get a mention here because I doubted its contents would prove interesting but when Bexley council failed to respond to that simple request it began to look like another case of something to hide and FOI law breaking.

Why are they so keen to make themselves look devious when honest people would take the cheapest option? All council officers keep electronic diaries so it should have been, one click, job done and Brownie points for Bexley council.

A complaint went to the Information Commissioner and Bexley council was told to do what they should have done five months earlier. However the council sent only a typed list purporting to have been extracted from the real diary. Wide open to falsification I think you will agree. Another complaint went to the Commissioner.

Under pressure, Bexley council responded in the same inadequate way; another typed list and as if to prove the first was a lie, the second attempt was very different from the first. Why didn’t they just send the genuine article?

Following a further intervention by the Information Commissioner, Bexley council appears to have come to its senses. After 49 weeks of expensive bureaucratic ducking and diving. Paul Moore, the Director of Customer and Corporate Services has sent the requested screen shots.

As expected, the documents are not very interesting but even if that were not the case, it seems to me that publishing a run of the mill diary is an intrusion too far. The big question must be why Bexley council decided to waste so much time and money resisting such a simple request. Ironically one of Tuckley’s diary entries was a meeting about the cost of handling FOIs.

As ever, Bexley council’s default position is to tell residents as little as possible and demonstrate what an untrustworthy bunch they are. Honesty would have been so cheap and easy but instead we get a total absence of common sense from people paid some of the highest public sector salaries in the land. Maybe I do them an injustice by taking insufficient account of the pressure coming from the council leader to bury all skeletons and potential criticisms as deeply as possible.

The file relating to this simple Freedom of Information request runs to 64 mainly single sided A4 pages.



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