Friday, 20 March 2009

Cry Freedom

Finally, after a mere 18 months, the Information Commissioner has written to Reading Borough Council and told them that they were wrong to withhold emails sent from Martin Salter's office to senior council officers.

But then the council was already aware of that. In June 2007, they sent an email to staff telling them that they knew that all such emails were disclosable.

I have now been sent the copies as I originally requested, but there is one slight problem. I have copies of other emails sent by Martin Salter's office which do not appear on the list, so I know for a fact that they are still hiding some from me.

I have also recently spoken to staff who tell me that deleting potentially embarrassing emails is standard practice in many council departments.

The upshot of this experience is that in Reading, Freedom of Information means nothing of the sort. It is down to the officers to sift and delete things they are comfortable with you seeing and if you complain they hide behind the council's ICT policy, refuse to give you the information you are legally entitled to, insult your motives and hope that you can't be arsed to wait for a year and a half, by which time you probably won't need it anyway.

Some officers seem to have forgetten that they are here to serve the people of Reading, not the other way around.

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