Posted tagged ‘freedom of information’

Hiding behind Exaggeration

May 6, 2011

Is exaggeration hiding the debate?

Do you know what I hate more than anything in the whole world, that there is not a single thing in the world which I wouldn’t do to get rid of it?

Exaggeration.

Exaggeration is at the heart of many unnecessary arguments, and is the thing which skews correct and useful information into something which bears little or no relation to anything that can be used to formulate an informed and valid opinion. And when one person or group gets a reputation for exaggeration, it is assumed that most things they then say is exaggerated, which can in turn lessen its impact hugely.

This point came to mind when reading a recent press release from Unison, which you should be able to find amongst other places at the Lancashire Unison website. In it they bring up a number of duties which the government is aiming to scrap, and explore the possible levels of anarchy which would then be possible. A few of my personal favourites include:

Environmental Protection Act 1990, Section 89

Councils currently have to keep land and highways clear of litter. Would litter start to pile up on our streets?

Public Health Act 1936

Councils have to provide mortuaries. Would removing this duty see bodies pile up in the street?

Licensing Act 2003 Section 18

Requires local authorities to have a system for regulating premises licenses, including issuing licenses. Would we see strip clubs set up on any corner?

(more…)

Advertisements

Review of the year

December 22, 2010

The first rule of WLLG; don't tell anyone who writes WLLG

It is coming to the end of the year and the WeLoveLocalGovernment team are planning to take a well earned break between now and the New Year (don’t worry though; we’ve planned some little surprises to keep you entertained throughout the festive period).

And as the end of the year is coming it seemed appropriate to take stock of the year that has been, both for us and for local government. So, in true top of the pops style here follows, in no particular order, our top ten reflections on the year:

1) It would be hard to look past the Comprehensive Spending Review as the single most important moment for local government this year. In our opinion the spending cuts were, and still are, a big opportunity for local government. However, in the short term they have led to rushed decisions and the redundancy of a lot of staff who in any other circumstances local government would be nuts to let go.

2) As a blog site nothing was more exciting than our debut writing on the Guardian website; although our post on radical Chief Executives could be politely described as somewhat controversial. Nonetheless, we thoroughly enjoyed writing the blog and took a certain pleasure in provoking a little bit of controversy; derived straight from the front line.

3) All of us found ourselves facing redundancy, for some we were facing it for the first time in our lives. I don’t think any of us would describe ourselves as particularly naive and we knew what was coming. However, the way it happened, the effect it had on previously reasonable colleagues and the trouble many Local Authorities had at making the whole thing stick was beyond our worst expectations or fears.

(more…)

The Lazy journalist index

November 9, 2010

 

Freedom comes at a cost

 

A few weeks ago I wrote a post decrying the sad state of a part of our great British media and in particular their favourite tool of laziness; the Freedom of Information Act.

As a part of this post I promised that if people sent in some nominations for those journalists who most often mis-used the FoI Act I’d come up with some form of ranking and publish it on the site.

That was three weeks ago and as the more observant of you would have noticed I haven’t yet written that post. The reasons are two-fold:

1) We actually got quite a good response from information officers and others from around the country and I needed to work out some form of ranking.

2) I suddenly had this feeling that writing a post about lazy journalists with a penchant for FoI requests was not a very bright idea.

However, after much thought I have decided to suck it up and not let down the people who have sent us e-mails etc. On the issue of ranking I have decided to us a very basic system and just give you the three top scorers as these were far and away above the others. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the top three FoI related drains on the public purse:

  • Chris Hastings from the Mail on Sunday
  • Jasper Copping from the Daily Telegraph
  • Adam Thorne from the News of the World

I advise you all to check out some of their work and remember each FoI request can cost about £280 per authority and many of these requests go to over 400 authorities a time… That is over £80,000 per news story; I’ll leave you to judge whether the stories are worth the cost.

These journalists no doubt do a very good job and have hunted out some awesome stories but FoIs about biscuits, equality officers and people with climate change in their job title probably don’t add up to good value to the public purse!

On a slightly lighter note one of my correspondents suggested the following:

Maybe we should submit a FOI request to the major newspapers to find out a few things, namely:

  • how many FOI requests they have made to Local Authorities over the past 12 months;
  • the names of the journalists who made them (also their pay grades and job titles);
  • the nature of these enquiries;
  • how many were to confirm an existing story;
  • how many were speculative;
  • how many led to a positive news release;
  • how many to a negative news release;
  • the increase in circulation figures as a direct result of these stories, and;
  • the number of journalists who can sleep at night.

If only the FoI applied to national newspapers I for one would be the first person to submit that request!

The Freedom of ‘Lazy Journalism’ Act

October 18, 2010

Freedom to stencil

In the publicity surrounding his recently published memoir ‘A Journey’ Tony Blair was asked if there was anything he regretted from his time in office. Cleverly dodging the obvious answer, ‘Iraq’, our former Prime Minister surprised the watching masses by answering: ‘The Freedom of Information Act’.

Those watching probably responded to this with a big yawn but Mr Blair was 100% right: the FOI Act drives many of us to distraction.

I’m not going to get into the morality of the issue; I personally believe that the more information in the public realm the better but for Local Government staff the morality of the issue is basically besides the point; practically it is a nightmare.

The real problem is that many of the requests we receive are not from concerned citizens but from seriously lazy and, dare I say, incompetent journalists. Not all journalists are lazy or incompetent and some who use the FoI Act do so with devastating effectiveness.

(more…)