Sunday, 3 October 2010

Naughty Broken Barnet: Stand in the Corner

It hasn't been a good week for anyone who is interested in well, you know, democracy, justice, the right to freedom of speech, or freedom of information, that kind of stuff, in the London Borough of Broken Barnet.

Mrs Angry herself became a martyr to the cause, after being summarily and officially 'dis-liked' for, gulp, a punitive sentence of two months, by Barnet Council's stern faced Facebook masters.( Mrs Angry would like to thank them and point out that this merciless punishment is probably the only thing that has ever happened to her which has significantly raised her credibility with her teenage daughter, and her FB obsessed classmates.)

Mrs Angry's unspeakable crime was to mention our easyChair councillors' 54% pay rise, and then to dare to ask why the remark was removed. Oops, as Britney said, I did it again ...

The fabulous new 'Daft Ideas Barnet' site was monitored by unceasing surveillance by vigilant council officers, trained to sniff out any traces of intelligent thought or deviant political thinking, and all subversive activity was excised with ruthless efficiency. Sort of: until they all came bouncing back again. And then disappeared. And then ... well, you get the picture.

A disaffected Barnet employee leaked a document to a blogger (not me, obviously, being an empty headed lady blogger, I only get mostly unprintable and/or indecent comments and the odd racing tip) which was apparently a Bad Thing. And unprofessional. Never mind, eh: worse things happen at sea. To lifeboatmen & stuff. Or something. Eh?

Oh, ah, and then: talking of racing tips: Mrs Angry's official racing correspondent - fellow blogger, occasional librarian, dandy, and man about town, Mr Tom Roper http://tomroper.typepad.com/ - has, apart from spotting a winner at the Queen Elizabeth II stakes last week, also brought to her attention a very interesting press release by the ICO, the Information Commissioner.

On Friday 1st October, the ICO announced that there is now a list of 19 organisations being monitored by the commissioner for a period of three months, as it appears that they are not meeting the requirement to respond to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests on time. During the three month period the ICO may anyway take action if an authority's standard of compliance is 'revealed to be particularly poor' or it appears 'unwilling to make the improvements necessary'.

The London Borough of Barnet is one of the organisations singled out by the ICO.

Mrs Angry cannnot claim to be in any way surprised, having herself had cause to complain (successfully) to the ICO in regard to a delayed FOI response on an issue of political sensitivity, and having heard significant anecdotal evidence of similar stories, a suspicion now backed up by the figures quoted by this press release, she is very glad indeed to see that the ICO is at last taking a firm stand on this matter.

Why does this matter? Because the witholding or the delaying of the supply of information to which residents are entitled is yet another form of censorship, and an obstruction of the democratic process, and yet another symptom of the malaise which is infecting this administration. The sooner that this disease is cut out of the corporate body, the better for all of us, and the distant prospect of some form of accountability, genuine 'transparency', and a relationship of mutual respect between this council and the people it was elected to serve.

6 comments:

vickim57 said...

An interesting discovery, Mrs A.

Now, you should have had a headline that said "Mrs Angry exclusive: Barnet failing on FOI requests".

You see, us ladies do not trumpet our achievements loudly enough! If we did, people would take more notice of the things we find out. Modesty is not good in any cause.

Of course, one can overdo the opposite as well - hubris best avoided, but a middle path is surely possible.

Mrs Angry said...

You could be right, Vicki: if I have a fault it is my shy and retiring nature, my modesty, and maidenly reservation. I suspect, however, that even if you or I were handed secret NATO documents or the Trident launch password and stuck it on the blog, no one would notice until a real, manly blogger picked it up. Perhaps we should concentrate more on knitting patterns, (woolly hats) or Victoria sponge recipes?

Tom Roper said...

I'm most grateful for my new position, racing tipster by appointment to Mrs A.
I have applied for membership of the Royal Warrant Holders Association.

Mrs Angry said...

I'm wondering if I might take on an astrologer, as well? Could probably cover that myself, I suppose.

Tom Roper said...

Rather than an astrologer, have an oracle.
More reliable. The Finchley Oracle, perhaps? See In Our Time

Mrs Angry said...

actually I've always rather fancied being an oracle ...hmmm might have to change the tone of the blog ...