Thursday, 6 September 2012

If people don't know what you're doing, they don't know what you're doing wrong (2)

Now the wobbly headed minister for Murdoch is off to wreck the NHS we are now stuck with EVaizey. His new boss though is someone called Marie Miller. Her views on abortion and gay marriage are not good, she is however a school governor so I hope she actually understands the importance of reading and libraries for young people. I won't get my hopes up though.

Its good news that EVaizey is still in post though, we have two and a half years to hold him to account for his inaction. Any fair reading of his position in opposition compared to his position on library cuts now shows his current position to be untenable. Politicians are very thick skinned however, especially this government.

In March I put in a FOI request asking what advice EVaizey had received, if any, telling him not to intervene where the department had taken the view the act had been breached by councils. What followed was a masterclass in obfuscation, time wasting and breaching a statutory act which gives the public the right of access to any information held by a public body. They are supposed to reply to FOI requests "promptly" and no later than twenty working days, unless there are special circumstances. The time line so far is as follows:

15 March 2012 - Initial request for information
12 April 2012 - Reply asking me to clarify my request, 19 working days later.
20 June 2012 - After a delay, they say no. 47 working days after the clarification which resets the 20 days.
24 June 2012 - I ask for a internal review (no more than 40 working days for these)
06 Sep 2012 - It is now 53 working days since my simple request for information

They have, I believe just stalled and wasted time at every stage to try and avoid releasing information they should by law. Only last year the prime minister promised a "new era of transparency" and talked up the power of opening up government information to the public:
"This incredible demand shows the power of transparency, and why we need more of it. Information is power. It lets people hold the powerful to account, giving them the tools they need to take on politicians and bureaucrats"
My experience of trying to understand the reasoning behind the lack of intervention by EVaizey doesn't really square with the lofty rhetoric of the prime minister. I have chased this via the what do they know site, I have emailed various people in the FOI team, the permanent sectary and I have even rang a few times and asked to speak to Demster (he goes to voice mail every time) but nobody is listening. The poor switchboard keep telling me that they all must be busy at the paralympics but that doesn't really cut it, that's hardly a unforeseen circumstance and billions were poured into that event so they aren't under resourced because of it. I need them to give their final, predicable response then I can finally refer this to the information commissioner, then its more waiting. Politicians will say and do anything to get into power, once there they face the other way and try their best to ignore you until its election time again. 

Link to the FOI request:

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