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Apr 25 2013

Barry Says: Harrow Council Still Denying Access to Information

cllr_barry174 days and counting…

I have been requesting copies of a number of reports that the Council produced about the implementation of the SAP computer system since a briefing meeting on SAP held on the 1st November 2012 – almost 6 months now. The information has not been forthcoming nor has there been any explanation for Harrow Council’s delay and/or their apparent refusal to furnish me with these reports.

This is an extract from the relevant minutes from the 19th March Overview & Scrutiny meeting:

Referring to Minute 363, the report of the Chair of the Performance and Finance Scrutiny Sub-Committee, a Member stated that there had been an unacceptable delay in the provision of SAP reports that had been requested at a meeting of the Sub-Committee. The Chair of the Sub-Committee expressed her disappointment that the information requested had not been provided and urged that action be taken to address this and stated that she hoped that this issue need not be raised again. Another Member reminded the Committee of the Access to Information protocol and that there were timescales that had to be adhered to. If the information was not going to be made available his expectation would be that both the Monitoring Officer and Section 151 Officer be requested to attend the Committee in order to provide an explanation.

Source

At this month’s Overview & Scrutiny meeting (09/04/13), I asked that the minutes (of 19th March 2013) be corrected to reflect the actual number of days that have elapsed since the request for the SAP reports was made; these are copied, below.  The amended minutes show that at the O&S meeting on 19th March, some 138 days had elapsed; by the O&S meeting on 9th April, this had risen to 160 days; and, with the information still not provided, that this has now risen to 174 days today (23rd April):

381. With reference to Minute 368, a Member stated that the Minute should be amended to reflect that he had been waiting, at the time of that meeting, for 138 days for the SAP reports he had requested. It had now been 160 days since his original request.

A Member reminded the Committee that the officers concerned had been advised of the expectation that if the information requested was not forthcoming that they would be required to attend the Committee in order to provide an explanation.

Source

This rather begs the following questions: If councillors are being denied access to information about the running of Harrow Council, including access to reports providing the rationale for major decisions taken, how can we do our job as elected representatives for the residents we represent? How can we check to see if public funds are being wisely and prudently spent? How can we determine whether Harrow residents are getting the best value for their money? How can we challenge the administration to do better?

This whole sorry episode, which has still not finished, underlines once again the importance of improving access to information. Harrow residents deserve better; and that requires making Harrow Council more open, more transparent and more accountable.

Cllr. Barry Macleod-Cullinane
Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group
London Borough of Harrow

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