FOI updates

16 Jul

Last month I submitted two freedom of information requests to Newham. These have now been answered and both responses were surprising, albeit in different ways.

The first request asked about the costs associated with the council’s YouTube monitoring unit. I wanted to know how many ‘law enforcement officers’ had been involved, how much money had been spent and what officers spent their time doing. I also wanted to know what metrics would be used to measure whether or not the money invested had been spent wisely.

Not unreasonable questions and ones you would have thought Newham had ready answers to. But no. The reply I got was – in almost every respect – deficient. To say that

two members of staff are involved but this equated to zero full time equivalents as the work was not undertaken on a full time basis

is simply idiotic. And stating that

no metrics will be used to evaluate [this project], as the successful outcome of removal of the videos is self evident

is patronising and lazy. If it were self-evident I wouldn’t be asking, would I?

I am surprised the reply passed through internal quality assurance checks before being sent out. Needless to say, I have requested a review and some supplementary information. This has not yet been acknowledged.

The second request asked, straightforwardly, how much the Labour party paid to use space at Newham Dockside for Ed Miliband’s big speech on social security reform. This was a party political event, not a civic one, so it was fair to assume that the council would charge for the use of its facilities. The answer I got was not at all what I expected.

Newham said they didn’t charge Labour anything because the event took place in

a non-chargeable public space within the building.

Read that again. I did. Just to make sure I hadn’t got it wrong the first time.

There’s a part of Building 1000 that is public space, which the council will not charge you for using if you want to hold an event. Even a party political event.

If that’s genuinely the policy, then fair enough. But has Newham really thought through the potential consequences of that?

I can imagine that next April, ahead of the local elections, any number of people might want somewhere to launch their campaign to be mayor. Or their party’s manifesto. Where better than the very building they hope to be elected to occupy a month later? And they can have it for free!

And the council has put itself in the position where it will be almost impossible to say no.

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One Response to “FOI updates”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Another four more years | forestgatedotnet - January 20, 2016

    […] and not council business, Labour should be billed for the use of the facilities, though based on past events they probably won’t be.   Finally… one thing which has become clear through our member […]

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