Thousands of council files to be destroyed because of asbestos

July 05, 2012 2:48 PM

Thousands of council documents are due to be shredded in Waltham Forest because asbestos has been found in the town hall. This however has not gone down well with local campaigners who have requested copies of election expenses return forms from 2010. They suspect irregularities, and are concerned the council is using asbestos as an excuse to shred embarrassing documents.

Nick Taratsoo is one of those people trying to obtain copies of the documents. In a quote to the Waltham Forest Guardian, he said:
At first [in January] I was told that they had been destroyed, then that they could not be produced because of short-term building work in the town hall basement. Now, five months on, the council finally admits that it has a significant problem with asbestos, and that many paper files will have to be shredded.

This threatens to be a calamity for local democracy, since without records it will be impossible fully to hold either members or officers to account. The council urgently needs to explain how it has got into this mess and itemise exactly which files are in jeopardy. [It should] ensure that these are copied before destruction, for instance by digitalisation.

Mr Taratsoo makes some important points. If it is safe for to shred the files, why isn't it safe to make digital copies of them? We also don't know which type of asbestos is it, how many files are affected, or from which years.

The Waltham Forest Guardian has tried to get answers from the council, but none have been forthcoming. This wall of silence is not doing the council any favours. If it has nothing to hide, it should answer these questions. They have known about the asbestos for six months. They must have a record of which files are affected.

The council needs to get this information out in the open, save as many files as possible, and explain why if it can shred files, it can't save them as PDFs. Until these questions are answered, local residents are going to think there is a conspiracy.

UPDATE: It took almost a week, but the council has eventually responded to the newspaper's request for a comment. The council has known about the asbestos since the 1980s. It is the low risk type of asbestos, and important documents will be copied.

Why it took so long, I don't know. All the council had to do was answer questions promptly. Not too difficult, is it?

 Thousands of council documents are due to be shredded in Waltham Forest because asbestos has been found in the town hall. This however has not gone down well with local campaigners who have requested copies of election expenses return forms from 2010. They suspect irregularities, and are concerned the council is using asbestos as an excuse to shred embarrassing documents.

Nick Taratsoo is one of those people trying to obtain copies of the documents. In a quote to the Waltham Forest Guardian, he said:
At first [in January] I was told that they had been destroyed, then that they could not be produced because of short-term building work in the town hall basement. Now, five months on, the council finally admits that it has a significant problem with asbestos, and that many paper files will have to be shredded.

This threatens to be a calamity for local democracy, since without records it will be impossible fully to hold either members or officers to account. The council urgently needs to explain how it has got into this mess and itemise exactly which files are in jeopardy. [It should] ensure that these are copied before destruction, for instance by digitalisation.

Mr Taratsoo makes some important points. If it is safe for to shred the files, why isn't it safe to make digital copies of them? We also don't know which type of asbestos is it, how many files are affected, or from which years.

The Waltham Forest Guardian has tried to get answers from the council, but none have been forthcoming. This wall of silence is not doing the council any favours. If it has nothing to hide, it should answer these questions. They have known about the asbestos for six months. They must have a record of which files are affected.

The council needs to get this information out in the open, save as many files as possible, and explain why if it can shred files, it can't save them as PDFs. Until these questions are answered, local residents are going to think there is a conspiracy.

UPDATE: It took almost a week, but the council has eventually responded to the newspaper's request for a comment. The council has known about the asbestos since the 1980s. It is the low risk type of asbestos, and important documents will be copied.

Why it took so long, I don't know. All the council had to do was answer questions promptly. Not too difficult, is it?

 

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