Jan 23 2013

Harrow Council: Lazy, Ignorant or Arrogant?

harrow_council_logoThe Freedom of Information Act is an ingenious piece of legislation, designed to move public bodies away from secrecy and to make them more accountable to the public by forcing them to release information in response to questions from the tax-paying public. At iharrow.com, we use this a lot to find out what Harrow Council are doing, what they’re spending money on, and whether their ideas are well-thought out and encourage value for money.

Many Harrow  Residents will be familiar with the ‘Police Cube’ in Harrow Town Centre. With all the charm of a bus-station public toilet, this monstrosity was built in 2009 to act as a Police point of contact right in the middle of Harrow. In fact, it’s been described as an ‘ugly excresence’ by ex-Leader of the Council, Cllr Bill Stephenson, and a ‘blight on the landscape’ by Cllr Will Stoodley (Labour, West Harrow).

So, we wondered how much tax-payer’s money the Council has squandered on it, and asked that very question, via the Freedom of Information Act.

It took the Council only three days to tell it’s first fib: “…the information you’ve requested is not held by Harrow Council.” We thought that odd, since the thing is plastered in Harrow Council branding, so we responded with a request for an Internal Review – that’s the process used when you’re not happy with the response provided by an authority.

Eventually, at the limit of the 20 days allowed by law, the Council changed it’s mind: “I can respond that the reply informing you no records were held by this Authority was incorrect.”

The cost of the Police Cube was actually £140,000. No wonder the Council tried to cover things up. But this was only the tip of the iceberg – the attempted cover-ups continued. At one point in early January, the Council had failed to respond to eight different FOI requests within the 20 days set down in law (there are exceptions, for example, public holidays). On closer inspection, it turned out that the Council had noted that although there were three days of public holidays over Christmas, it had decided to arbitrarily add on 12 days to account for those days. In that case, the request was submitted on December 20, 2012, and we were told to expect a response by February 6, 2013.

We pointed out that this was, in fact, not on. They said: “…we acknowledge that we must respond to FOIA requests within 20 working days and that it is only public and bank holidays that are excluded in calculating the time limit.”

We asked them to explain why they thought they didn’t need to comply with the law surrounding FOI legislation. Apart from repeating the above arrogant line, we got told: “We have nothing further to add.” It’s unclear if the Council is lazy, ignorant or simply arrogant in it’s dealings here.

Another complaint is winging it’s way to the Chief Executive, Michael Lockwood, to ignore. But it does seem that this is the Council that feels it doesn’t have to bother with those tiresome laws that we, the tax-paying public, need to.



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1 comment

  1. Melanie

    All of the above plus they’re liars, incompetents and fools. Plus let us not forget the convictedcriminal, the paedophile’s life partner and Mitzi Green, who just cries at difficult questions. But even if (and this requires a huge stretch of the imagination), even if they were all lovely, by refusing to kick out the criminal under curfew, Councillor ‘Give Me Your Money’ Gawn, they tar themselves with the same brush of criminality. How blessed we are, a council of criminals, paedophiles and their soul mates. Lucky Harrow!

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