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.