Council asks for questions about its budget; then refers questions to the FOI officer

Stoke on Trent Council is taking to the streets – sort of – to involve members of the public in its budget-setting decisions for next year.

It’s a nice idea – not just expecting people to turn up at ‘consultation’ meetings, but getting out and about to see people in places where they might actually be anyway, such as a shopping centre.

A statement on the council website is quite clear:

“The city council has launched a package of savings and investments which will accelerate the momentum towards making Stoke-on-Trent a ‘great working city’.  Your views on these proposals are welcomed.”

The excellent hyperlocal site Pits n Pots reports this rather open way of doing business – and then reveals that all is not necessarily what it seems.

For when a regular commenter on Pits n Pots contacted the council with a list of questions he had about the council’s spending, he didn’t get the answer the quite expected:

Mr Norris from Tunstall did not recieve a response from the Council Leader or Officer, he was sent a standard E-mail from the Freedom of Information office explaining that he had sent in a Freedom of Information request and he should expect a response by 22 December, just one day before the consultation closes.

Only at a council could you have one arm telling the public to come and get involved, only for another arm to push someone who does try to get involved down the FOI route. A case of being seen to be open, rather than actually being open in the first place?



One thought on “Council asks for questions about its budget; then refers questions to the FOI officer

  1. Another aspect to this is quite disturbing. Abusive Wirral Council went onto the streets recently to consult ‘far and wide’. They had a few thousand responses in the shape of forms filled in. These forms had been cynicly filled with loaded, self-serving questions.

    The truly deplorable part is when people complained to the council following this exercise, they had the following thrown back in their faces. (I’m paraphrasing): “You were consulted. We’ve acted upon your requirements in an open and democratic manner. What more can we do?”

    When I describe this council as abusive it refers to the removal of £500,000 from learning disabled tenants’ bank accounts over a 7 year period, despite knowing very early on that the whole process was unlawful. The abuse was recently admitted to in a single line, within a particular document in amongst thousands of others on the Wirral Council website.

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