We made reference to the subject of this post last month when we commented :
“Although the ruling Labour group are the focus of much of our criticism we are avowedly apolitical here at Leaky Towers.So what we find strange is the sudden interest in opposition parties in actually “opposing” the ruling Labour group. We also hear that there is an interesting development involving the 5 remaining Lib Dem councillors and the 1 Green councillor getting together to raise some important issues about Freedom of Information requests – more details as we get them.”
Well we are grateful that we waited until the Lib Dem/Green Notice of Motion , which we had previously heard about , was included in the agenda for next week’s full meeting of Wirral Council.We are also grateful for the article published on the Wirral Globe website which also covers the Notice of Motion as it gives the opportunity to comment further on the obfuscation and misinformation which Wirral Council officers seem to specialise in and which sends the cry of “WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH THESE PEOPLE? ringing round Leaky Towers.
Firstly , here’s the Notice of Motion :
OPEN GOVERNMENT ? This Council recognises that the Information Commissioner’s Office, as the independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest and to promote openness by public bodies, upheld 13 complaints against Wirral Council in the past year. Of the 18 notices issued between 29 September 2014 and 24 August 2015, the majority (72%) of complaints were upheld. Council believes that this is a matter for concern, requiring an explanation to its Members. Council requests that lessons should be learned and applied from these decisions and questions whether Officers have been excessively cautious or defensive in their interpretation of the legislation. Council, therefore, requests that the legislation is approached with greater regard to the ‘public interest test’ so that the risk of further reputational damage to Wirral can be reduced.
Meanwhile here’s Super Director Joe Blott’s ridiculous response to Cllr Phil Gilchrist’s reasoning behind the Notice of Motion in the Globe :
“We would have to take issue with the information supplied here, which states that between September 2014, and August 2015, 72% of complaints to the ICO were upheld.The summary of information on the ICO website about Wirral covers the period from February 2012 and January 2015, when the council received 3,975 FoI requests.Of these, the ICO upheld 42 complaints, representing 1.1% of all requests received.We consistently achieve upwards of an 85% response rate to FoIs received, which is the ICO performance target.It currently stands at 96% for July and 95% for August.By far the most common upheld complaint is that the response was not issued within the statutory time period and we are appointing to enable us to improve our response times.”
Can someone remind us again how much we pay this less than Super Director to come up with this nonsense?.What does it say in his Super Duper Director job description – a) publicly defend the indefensible b) er,that’s it?.
Sounds like Blotto has asked some underling to cut and paste some random stats off the ICO website to get the Globe off his case.Can we advise Joe Blotto that he goes back and actually reads the Notice of Motion and what Cllr Phil “Gonads” Gilchrist is actually saying.
In fact – don’t worry we’ll break it down for you Blotto and don’t worry no consultancy fee is required!.Basically, Gilchrist and co are saying that 15 out of 18 complaints made in the last year to the ICO were upheld.Blotto “takes issue” with this information by blithely ignoring the point and getting some underling to get some random stats of the ICO website which bear no relation to the Notice of Motion.The only relevant point that Blotto makes is – “By far the most common upheld complaint is that the response was not issued within the statutory time period “
So nothing to worry about – Wirral Council is just acting unlawfully.Well that’s alright then!.What Blotto fails to mention is the “statutory time period” of 20 working days has sometimes been exceeded by months.
As a final point Blotto then grasps more stats out of the air and says Wirral Council’s response times to FOI requests have improved.Yes , we sigh with exasperation , but what is the point of responding within 20 days by refusing the information and then a member of the public has to resort to making a complaint to the ICO and the waste of public money merry go round starts all over again?
The Notice of Motion politely asks whether Wirral Council are being “excessively cautious or defensive” when it comes to FOI requests .The words we’d choose to describe their stance would be “secretive” and “obstructive”.Indeed we’re aware of some cases currently sitting in the ICO in-tray that are nothing to do with being cautious/defensive and everything to do with concealing unlawful activity.
A more accurate description of Wirral Council’s approach to FOI requests can be found in a ICO Decision Notice sent this month to local FOI campaigner Paul Cardin :
Can we look forward to Liptrot & Blott putting some spin on this one :
“We take issue with this deeply flawed Decision Notice – failed,inadequate ,failure and disappointing are obviously typographical errors and we will be writing to the ICO in the strongest possible terms to ,er complain about this complaint.More importantly can we distract you by telling you about Wirral Council’s 20/20 Vision plan thing because that’s so much more interesting and truly indicative of direction of travel that Wirral Council is taking.It’s SHINY,it’s NEW,it’s just BLOODY MARVELLOUS and Wirral Council cabinet members have been told that every time they make a public statement they must mention the plan and be relentlessly positive. Cllr. Adrian ” Windbag” Jones letter published this week in the Wirral Globe shows how it should be done – Ok he may not know the difference between “scalding” and “scathing” (unless he was referring to the fact that Wirral Council were in hot water) but ,bless him at least he tries to convince himself if no-one else that everything is nwydd.Meanwhile did you know that banging your head against a wall uses 150 calories an hour? ( true fact)”