Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Shreddergate

I'd like to say I was 'shocked and stunned' by 'Shreddergate', but I'm not.

Hiding evidence is deeply ingrained throughout the council and has been for many years the official policy of the Labour administration. We shouldn't therefore be surprised when council employees take it upon themselves to conduct what looks on the surface like a cover up.

Of course, I should be fair and say that it might not be and that there is a perfectly innocent explanation for why staff had to sneak in unpaid at the weekend to shred 25 bags of documents. It could be part of the new efficiency savings we got out of Labour, or the hamsters running the power plant beneath the civic offices might have needed new bedding... but the corrossive matter that the council has to address is that no-one will ever know the truth and now no-one will ever believe them if they are innocent.

And I say that after several occasions when I haven't been told the whole truth about things by the council. In one case after being given a load of cobblers I eventually got an apology for misleading me, but only after I did my own digging and pointed out the gaping holes in their official version of events.

The trouble is that there is no requirement for disclosure and openness and there is no way of finding out the truth without it being filtered through the Labour administration.

As well as the recent shredding scandal, I know that RBC sent around an email in June 2007 telling senior council officers that emails between themselves, MPs and lead councillors WERE subject to disclosure under Freedom of Information and that if the council officers didn't want them released all they needed to do is simply delete them from their inbox because then they wouldn't exist.

I won't start on how technically wrong that statement is!

The timing of this email to council officers is important. The day before it was sent, I had received a response to a Freedom of Information request giving me just the subject and date for emails sent between senior officers and Martin Salter rather than the actual contents I had asked for. As well as the lack of content, I know for a fact that one email he sent was missing in action from the list I was given.

If that email to officers had been sent just one day earlier, it would have been contempt of court and that's too much of a coincidence for me. It was the electronic equivalent of telling staff to make sure they shredded anything they might deem remotely embarrassing in their conversations with Martin Salter and lead councillors.

My official complaint about the matter has now been 18 months with the Information Commissioner, so there has been plenty of time to shred and delete things. I don't think I'll ever get to the bottom of accusations made to me about whether the Labour party has used Reading Borough Council as their private campaign piggy bank because undoubtedly if there was any evidence for it none of it exists any more.

Even my FoI request asking for a copy of the email telling senior council officers to delete their emails came back with nothing... because they had dutifully deleted it!

One thing that you will not find in Reading as long as Labour is in charge is open government. They either simply don't believe in it or have too many bodies to hide.

I'll leave it to you the reader to decide which.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

er er And that goes for all the bodies connected to RBC..The big wide conspiracy. Experienced it myself..Wonder what these people will do when the Politburo goes down!

Was said...

They won't have any problems. They have had at least 18 months to delete or shred anything incriminating.

My efforts to confirm or deny allegations made to me by council employees that Martin Salter was putting pressure on council resources for party political purposes will never be ascertained... because the council didn't send it to me in the first instance and certain officers and the legal department told me that any further requests would be treated as vexatious and refused.

Who the bloody hell are they to tell me what my motives were, especially when they knew full well that such communications were legally disclosable?

Anonymous said...

oooooh! Throwing a hissy fit.

No wonder you wanted to become a councillor - settling old scores. Bet you didn'y put that in your election leaflet did you?

Anonymous said...

What bodies are they then?

Oranjepan said...

Anonymous 20.27, such criticism of individual efforts undermines the democratic system.

'Settling old scores' could easily be your way of describing 'wants to make a positive contribution', but that's how meanings get twisted for effect.

Reading the detail of this post I'm fully prepared to give Cllr Swaine the benefit of the doubt, but it appears you're not. Why not?

Anonymous said...

Because g-pan, it's twaddle - that clear enough for you old boy?

Undermining the democratic system is a bit much - I'm only speaking as I find, or is that a crime these days too. Ummmm?

He was clearly hurt as a child and now as an adult wants to get his revenge on the people that caused him pain (metaphoricly speaking). That's how it seems to me - nuff said.

Was said...

Sorry to disappoint folks, but the 'hurt as a child' smear is way off the mark. Played football, was good at school. Had no money to rub together, but that didn't matter. True, there was a little bit of racist chanting my family had to endure, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, eh?

I know it's hard for Labour apparatchniks to believe, but I wanted to get elected to help the people of Katesgrove.

I've just got the bushes next to the Whitley Street bottle banks cut back so that pushchairs can get past and help on anti-social behaviour suffered by some housing association tenants which was not being dealt with.

Sorry if that's not a good enough reason to want to be a councillor for you. I make no apology for it.

jane said...

keep at it Was, I know you will never get the answer to your question "Was Martin Salter putting pressure on council resources for party political purposes?" (answer Yes)but that does not mean it is not worth going on about - and when the boys start getting personal at you then you know you are on the right track

Anonymous said...

Was, when you say they have had 18 months to shred or delete. Looks to me like "Shreddergate" was a panic moment ( I mean 25 bags is a hell of lot!). Am sure there is so much incriminating that something will come out from somewhere and if the rest relating to it has been deleted then, there should be police investigation. I know some people have already left ( recommended to..)and I personally know that on contact ( legally of course) they are still denying undertakings made and Legal Dept. is backing them up!!
Was, like Jane says keep it up. The more thorns in their side, the better. I know I bet it is frustrating at times ( know the feeling myself right now with my current dealings with that very Dept.)but ultimately truth will prevail..