In today's Barnet Press Cllr Cornelius has written a piece which, amongst other things, has a go at "an individual" for submitting too many Freedom of Information requests.
Well Cllr Cornelius, I would just like to get my FOI's answered but your officers seem to enjoy avoiding some of my requests. On November 22 last year I submitted an FOI request regarding RM Countryside, a supplier to Barnet Council. My request was as follows:
Please can you provide me with all Delegated Powers Reports that feature council supplier R.M. Countryside Services Limited since 1 April 2005 (with the exception of DPR1419 which is already available) and a list of all Barnet Council tenders in which R.M. Countryside Services Limited were successful since 1 April 2005.
There was a very good reason for submitting this FOI which I will not go into here but it is a serious matter and definitely not frivolous.
Receipt of my FOI request was acknowledged on 1 December 2011 and since then Barnet Council have refused to answer or even acknowledge any follow up requests on 3 January, 30 January and 8 March. Forget 20 days to get a response, I've waited 20 weeks and I still have not got an answer.
Cllr Cornelius needs to understand that the reason people submit FOI request is because Barnet is a deeply secretive organisation and one which seem to thrive on withholding information. Cllr Cornelius may recall that I asked him a question during public questions section at a council meeting last year. His response was "well perhaps you should submit a Freedom of Information Request". Not very helpful or constructive!
The scrutiny process in Barnet if flawed. There is no scrutiny whatsoever of the One Barnet Programme and residents are forbidden from asking questions on such matters at residents forums. Submitting FOI requests is the only way to try and get information out of the council and, baqsed on my experience, even that doesn't work.
On Monday I will be submitting a complaint to the Information Commissioners Office about the Council's refusal to comply with the Freedom of Information legislation, something which will take time and cost money for the council - but what alternative do I have?
In future I suggest Cllr Cornelius stops moaning about FOI requests in the local paper and start sorting out the obsessive, secretive and obstructive culture that exists within the Council.