Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Eric Pickles says:

The Communities Secretary Eric Pickles says:

"Getting council business out in the open will revolutionise local government. Local people should be able to hold politicians and public bodies to account over how their hard earned cash is being spent and decisions made on their behalf. They can only do that effectively if they have the information they need at their fingertips."

This is a profound statement and, I believe, we should be hold not only the Communities Secretary to his new standard AND local government to this new standard. All three levels of local Government, County, District and Town must be held to this standard. At the moment they are all woefully deficient. 
County Council: I find it very hard to find information on many of the activities of this monster. Too often the information is buried. I tried to find out the budget for 2010/11 but had trouble all the way through. Also there are cuts being made. Is there a section on the website on the options? Of course not. The County Council doesn't want to know our views on the cuts.
District Council: A very secretive organisation. The Working Group or Working Party is the secretive method the Council uses to keep information out of the public domain. Information that comes before these secret groups remains secret. Not what Eric Pickles wants! Agendas/Minutes and Reports for these secret meetings aren't published.
St Neots Town Council: In theory this Council shouldn't need to do much. Accounts payable are public documents and can be published with each agenda. There is the problem. The Town Council isn't very good at publishing information, like Agendas, Minutes and associated reports. The useless Planning Committee has agenda and minutes published very quickly. The Council and other committees are either not published or very late.

All these councils like their secrecy. There is a Government culture which puts secrecy first. These are bodies to which many of us don't have a choice over. All levels of Government need to embrace openness and change from the culture of secrecy. The example of local government compliance with Freedom of Information is not a good one. Local Government has blocked and blocked information it doesn't want to be published and there is no real way of making Councils do this. I feel local government will carry on this practice for a ever and a day because Councils are there for themselves and not their residents.

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