Posted tagged ‘freedom’

A question of standards

January 25, 2012

Guest post alert, and this pleases us.  As regular readers will know, WLLG Towers is home to more than one brain, but even between us all we find a fair few corners of the local government world about which we know pitifully small amounts.  If you happen to have some thoughts to share about any such corner then please send them in to us at welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com, as did today’s fantastic guest blogger DSO.  Enjoy!

In those heady days after the last general election, the coalition government sat down and hammered out a document, The Coalition: our programme for government, subtitled “Freedom Fairness Responsibility”. Included in the proposals for local government was a sentence which met with cheers from many local councillors: “We will abolish the Standards Board regime.”

Now, the Standards Board regime might have had a lot of reasons to be disliked, but it would never have been established if there hadn’t been a need for some oversight of ethical standards in the conduct of local councillors. The vast majority had no trouble sticking to the Code of conduct although they might have resented the necessity of legislating requirements to treat people with respect, not bullying and not to abuse their position for personal gain.

The real problems came from those determined to breach it on principle and from the complicated framework for dealing with complaints: investigations could drag on for months, there was secrecy concerning what information was seen and by whom, and no one was ever satisfied with the outcome of a Standards Committee hearing. Some of these criticisms were addressed when the regime was overhauled in 2008, transferring most of the work to local councils to speed up the process and bring local knowledge into play, but at the same time increasing costs for the local council. Everything had to be filtered through a first-stage committee meeting which could consider only evidence from the complainant and, based on this one-sided view, had to decide what to do next: investigate or drop it. An authority in the southwest received more than 800 complaints from one resident, and had to meet to decide what to do with each of them as the legislation didn’t allow the Monitoring Officer any discretion to dismiss clearly vexatious complaints. (more…)

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The Lazy Journalists Tackle Christmas (and other times of joy)

December 8, 2011

Freedom (to ask questions about nativity plays)

It seems like a lifetime ago that I sat at my computer and drafted a post entitled: ‘The Freedom of Lazy Journalism Act.’

The post provocatively claimed that whilst the FOI act is in general a good thing:

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.

I continued:

These so-called ‘journalists’ waste hours of council time (ironically often searching for examples of council staff wasting their time) and never are they actually searching for information or investigating a story.

Instead, they pre-write their stories and then use the FoI Act to trawl for a fact or two that will justify their prejudices or exaggerations.

Now, in hindsight I admit that perhaps I went a little too far (and the post received a bumper crop of comment and criticism) but last week I went out for my bi-annual drink with a few friends who work in FoI and other similarly related fields.

(more…)

Follow Friday

November 19, 2010

Twittering and other things

If you ignore the fact that many of us have found our way onto the redundancy lists of our respective councils and the fact that many of our friends and colleagues are finding their jobs at risk, the last few weeks have been pretty exciting for us at the WLLG blog.

Not only have more of you lovely people be reading the blog and commenting but we have also started moonlighting for our friends at the Guardian Local Government Network.

We’ve only got three posts up so far but if people like them and the Guardian get nice comments it should become a weekly thing.

Here, we have a slightly cynical look at local government cuts

This piece has caused some controversy on twitter so it is worth noting that the post is satirical in nature, highlighting some of the worst examples of rash cost cutting and is based on experiences that we and our colleagues in local government have actually witnessed. The Guardian pieces are slightly lighter in nature than those on this site (by design) and hopefully provide a useful corrective to some of the other pieces in Local Government literature.

Here, we explain the process for writing a local government blog (with tongue in cheek)

Here, we rehash previous blogs for our Guardinan debut. (more…)