Saturday 4 June 2011

Freedom of Information Stories

For your information, here are a few recent Freedom of Information responses from various public bodies requested by myself and others using the WhatDoTheyKnow website (scroll up each link to see the original request). Some requesters ask all local authorities the same question (eg the ICT Services) which then gives more comparable data, some requests stand alone;

I recently asked the Welsh Assembly Government about the cost of running the 'Efficiency and Innovation Board Wales' programme which started in March 2010 and aims to 'transform the way public services are designed and delivered', despite the grand sounding ambition I detect yet another jargon filled, pointless and expensive talking shop. If the key word is 'efficiency' which translates of course to 'savings' I would question why this Board has cost nearly a £1 million so far. For example, the Minister for Education, Leighton Andrews states at one meeting, regarding education cuts, that 'the next phase of the review would comprise active workstreams tasked with driving change forward. The Minister emphasised that he aimed to make rapid progress on shared services and collaboration so that quick wins could be made' blah blah blah.

What would I know about government waste though? Maybe we couldn't live without it.
One of the 'Workstreams' is 'National Asset Management' chaired by Chief Executive, Mark James. It's function appears to be to improve the speed and ease which publicly owned assets, including land, are, amongst other things, 'disposed of'.
Anyway here are the figures for the whole Board and programme for 2010 to 2011 (or 'outturn' as it is less controversially put)
Staff costs; £742,400
Research costs; £86,700 (includes £6,900 on a 'Leadership survey' and £4,400 on Leadership Behaviour Code - whatever that may be)
'Other' costs; £65,000. This includes more 'Leadership training' which breaks down as; £19,700 on Expert Seminars, £2100 on 'Insight Tours/seminars, £8,600 on Senior Leaders coaching, £17,900 on Organisational Practicioners Programme and £11,300 on Managing Change Successfully Programme. The 'Leadership' elements of the programme are run by Public Service Management Wales which, unless I am mistaken, is yet another quango funded by the Welsh Assembly, or you and me, of course.
Total £894,100
Efficiency and Innovation Programme and Board

Did you know that Carmarthenshire County Council charges each secondary school £5,500 per year (plus £4 per pupil) and each primary school £2,200 (plus £8 per child) for ICT services?

Did you know that in 2006 Carmarthenshire Council tipped 1810 tons of highway rubble on an unauthorised site? A warning letter was issued in April this year.

Did you know that 49 complaints against Carmarthenshire Council have been upheld by the Ombudsman since 2005? Nine in planning and building control (three in the past year) and five in Adult Social Services in 2010 alone.

It is not unknown of course, for Authorities to be circumspect when it comes to Freedom of Information responses particularly if possible bad press is envisaged.
Carmarthenshire Council is no exeption, I do not, for the record, blame the Freedom of Information/Data Protection officer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We applied thru F.O.I. for a document or documents, if held by this authority, which could evidence certain slanderous accusations being made against us. There was only one particular document held by them, which would have exposed blatant lies made by a councillor. This document, if forwarded to us when we requested from F.O.I. any evidence of these wilful lies, was withheld from us, deliberately, for two and a half years! Why? Because we could have taken action against them and the councillor who made the spiteful slanderous accusations, at the time they were made. As it stands now it is with the Ombudsman, for hopefully, an investigation. In this case, the F.O.I. officer was aware of this document, also that we should have had access to it. But, I daresay his job was more important to him than to go against the autocrats he works under. It should be of serious concern to members, who never appear to question the honesty of the council they work with. This was certainly the case with this particular councillor, who blindly accepted the word of a senior officer. If the Ombudsman will not expose this particular nasty episode, then I will.