Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Officers' Interests

At a recent meeting of the Policy and Resources Scrutiny Committee  concerns were raised over the 10 - 15% yearly rise in Freedom of Information Requests and whether the Authority could cope - apparently it could, just, even though the requests were becoming more complex...it is clearly taking far more time and ingenuity to put enough spin on the responses. Of course if as much information as possible was published (spending over £500 perhaps?...) this would ease the backlog, but the mysterious interweb is not a strength of this council. Two recent major 'consultations' - Dinefwr School Reforms and, of course, the Local Development Plan were very difficult to find despite a section of the website devoted entirely to 'Consultations', but it never occured to anyone to put them there.

Whilst on the subject of FoI requests I have been meaning to submit this one for some time. A recent decision by the Information Commissioner means that there is now a case for making Registers of Senior Officers' Interests for local authorities available to the public through publication. Members' Interests; business, property etc are already available to view, strictly by appointment (and I expect there's an 'undertaking' in there somewhere) at County Hall, although Carmarthenshire's two neighbouring authorities, Pembrokeshire and Swansea in a flash of transparency, publish the Members' Register on their websites. 

Must just add that during the update to the 'Integrated Community Strategy', someone raised the undoubtably strategic question as to whether the Local Service Board (committees of local officials - council, health board etc, found across Wales) was really just a quango - the minutes didn't specify whether the councillor also used the word 'useless'. The officer's response was that it was a jolly good idea even if it couldn't make any decisions and it's main purpose was clearly vital - a 'strategic forum to bring partners together to work strategically'. That's comforting then. I was surprised to read, a little further on that despite such great gatherings of strategic minds the Authority found it difficult to budget for Social Care services for the coming year as it was difficult to predict the demand - unlike the LDP where the population increases are predicted, (and taken as gospel), for many years ahead...strategically of course.

Y Cneifiwr blog about the Council website and Freedom of Info Requests - Secrecy and Incompetence


Cneifiwr said...

Interesting to see on Sarah Beeny's new show "SOS Save Our Village" that Wiltshire CC allowed the TV cameras to film a meeting of the licensing committee.

As for Carmarthenshire publishing members' interests online, the council is actually moving steadily backwards, and has been removing content from its website recently. You can no longer find out which councillors sit on which committees, and the "linguistic preferences" section showing which councillors can speak and write Welsh has also vapourised.

Cneifiwr said...

Silly me. You can still find membership of the committees. All you have to do is click on 'Council and Democracy', then select 'Councillors and Committees', then select 'List of Committees'. This takes you to the council's constitution. Scroll all the way down that until you get to a document headed '8. Bilingual Composition pdf'. Confusingly this opens a Word document and provides you with the lists.

Simples! How could I have been so dumb?