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Jan 28 2013

Harrow Council Shutters FoI Requests from iharrow.com

scared_of_computer-150x150The Freedom of Information Act is an important piece of legislation, aimed at making authorities more accountable to those they serve. Many important pieces of information have been released through these powers, not only within Harrow, but further beyond as well. Whilst Councils choose what to publish in press-releases, they often become forced to release the not so bright-and-smiley numbers under an FoI request.

For instance, under FoI legislation, we found out that over half of Harrow’s library computers don’t work, a situation which had deteriorated over the third which didn’t work six months earlier. We found out that the Mayor’s car costs £6.80 per mile to run, that’s three times the price of catching a cab. Or how about the Council spent £30,000 of your money on its failed Fairtrade Accreditation attempt?

Under the same legislation, the Council confessed that seven of its teachers had received allegations of sexual abuse against them, which resulted in a single dismissal. Or that there had been a further fourteen allegations of sexual abuse by non-teaching staff at schools.

We asked about the Town Centre Police Cube, and having been told a porky by the Council that they knew nothing about it, when we caught them out by mentioning the ‘Harrow Council’ branding emblazoned across it, they backtracked  and came up with a figure that  £140,000 of your money had been spent on it.

Powerful stuff, huh?

However, today, the Council has had enough. When we asked how many miles in non-official trips (such as running the Chief Executive home after meetings) the Mayor’s car had done, and how much the Director of Placeshaping was getting in a separation deal, it tipped them over the edge. Sure, we’d asked a lot of questions – and pointed out to their Chief Exec that many of these weren’t being answered in the time required under the Act, they decided to take their ball and go home. Effective today, the Council will refuse to answer – or even acknowledge – any more FoI requests from iharrow.com.

So, we’ll never know what the Chief Executive’s job description is, how much of your money they’ve thrown at Harrow in Europe, nor how much Council senior management have spent on hotel rooms (by the night, we stress, not the hour). Likewise, we won’t know how much the council has paid in compensation for  cars damaged by the many potholes in the borough’s roads, or what financial impact the Avanti House school has had now it’s taken over the Harrow Teacher’s Centre. We know the Council has lots of stale websites, but we don’t know what they’re spending on them as now, they won’t tell us.

We can’t ask you, loyal reader, to make requests on our behalf – they really wouldn’t like that – but we would ask that if you do take it upon yourself to ask them a question, please copy us by email – info@iharrow.com – so that we can continue to monitor where the council is spending your money. We’ll continue to scrutinise its performance and spending and, no doubt, we’ll figure out a way to get the information that they want to keep away from the public. Watch this space.

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3 comments

  1. PraxisReform

    Freedom of Information requests would be unnecessary if the council published proper accounts, rather than constantly trying to cover up its own incompetence.

    If I were in your position, I’d start sending out press releases to the local and national media, highlighting Harrow Council’s attempt to suppress legitimate investigation, and how they are trying to squash a citizen journalist, reporting what’s going on in the local area.

    If there’s anything I can do to assist in this matter, let me know.

  2. Melanie

    Hey guess what? I got threatened by the council with legal action if I keep asking things such as; why is Councillor Gawn not stepping down and what is the situation regarding the convicted paedophiles Councillor wife? I put on FOI on the qualifications of the great leader and of the head of place shaping? But I got a warning that if I continue to ask personal questions they’ll take me to court! So I promise that they can share my skipping rope in the playground!! Have you ever? Pathetic and obviously with something to hide! Anyone want to buy a house in Harrow? Value dropping like a stone with every minute Labouur are in power!

  3. Morepowertothepeople

    And I thought it was only me they had applied pressure to and refused further Foi requests, I only ever put 5 in! However once I had unearthed many failings within their systems, and some were subsequently changed for the better because of my asking questions, I became persona non grata! I was not allowed to speak to anyone other than one Council officer who they had designated to me, who was one of many officers who had lied, cheated,covered up, and then had a go at me in one conversation we had! Suffice to say I have never spoken to the Council since! They wanted me out of the way, and treated me in such an appalling manner over a long period of time. By the way these were senior officers!
    Praxis Reform is right, take it to the media as this I believe is illegal. The Council can only refuse based on 3 things; The cost, vexatious and repeated (that’s their favourite one), and exemptions in the act! Report them to the Information Commissioner, and call the journalist at the Evening Standard, who reported on Harrow Council a few weeks ago. The story was about Harrow having the highest amount of suspended staff in London, and about paying one Senior Education Officer(whose identity is quite widely known), full pay whilst on suspension for 2 and a half years! I am with the posters above, If I can help in anyway please let me know!

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