Transparency? Not if East Riding Council can get away with it

February 04, 2011 9:55 AM

 On Wednesday, I wrote about the way spending above £500 was presented on East Riding of Yorkshire Council's website. I was contacted by a councillor, Geoff Pickering, telling me he intended to raise this matter at a scrutiny committee meeting which met yesterday. After reading my post, he too tried to access the information and found it extremely difficult. After the meeting he sent me this message:
I raised this issue at Corporate Issues Overview & Scrutiny committee today. We resolved - (despite the director's insistence that there was no issue as the information was published as required) to make a formal recommendation that the information be presented in a clear usable manner. We were then overruled as that is 'operational'.  The recommendation is now for all information on the website to be accessible noting the publication of expenditure as an example. There are serious issues when an a scrutiny committee is 100% in agreement and still can not do anything to ensure that officers do the right thing.

It seems as if the information is deliberately presented in a confusing way. Council officers are not interested if you cannot easily read it. They are not bothered that you cannot copy and paste the figures into a spreadsheet, and councillors are not in a position to do anything about it.

So much for the council and the council leader saying they are committed to the government's transparency agenda. Once again this council  is letting taxpayers down. Residents should receive one of the lowest council tax bills in the country; yet they  have to endure year-on-year rises. Now it can't be bothered to allow taxpayers their right to view expenditure in an easily accessible way.

Why not write to the Director of Corporate Resources, Malcolm Sims, and tell him what you think? Mr Sims is new to his job. His predecessor was Sue Lockwood - who received £364K into her pension pot last year. He needs reminding he is there to serve the people, not make it harder for them to access important information. On Wednesday, I wrote about the way spending above £500 was presented on East Riding of Yorkshire Council's website. I was contacted by a councillor, Geoff Pickering, telling me he intended to raise this matter at a scrutiny committee meeting which met yesterday. After reading my post, he too tried to access the information and found it extremely difficult. After the meeting he sent me this message:
I raised this issue at Corporate Issues Overview & Scrutiny committee today. We resolved - (despite the director's insistence that there was no issue as the information was published as required) to make a formal recommendation that the information be presented in a clear usable manner. We were then overruled as that is 'operational'.  The recommendation is now for all information on the website to be accessible noting the publication of expenditure as an example. There are serious issues when an a scrutiny committee is 100% in agreement and still can not do anything to ensure that officers do the right thing.

It seems as if the information is deliberately presented in a confusing way. Council officers are not interested if you cannot easily read it. They are not bothered that you cannot copy and paste the figures into a spreadsheet, and councillors are not in a position to do anything about it.

So much for the council and the council leader saying they are committed to the government's transparency agenda. Once again this council  is letting taxpayers down. Residents should receive one of the lowest council tax bills in the country; yet they  have to endure year-on-year rises. Now it can't be bothered to allow taxpayers their right to view expenditure in an easily accessible way.

Why not write to the Director of Corporate Resources, Malcolm Sims, and tell him what you think? Mr Sims is new to his job. His predecessor was Sue Lockwood - who received £364K into her pension pot last year. He needs reminding he is there to serve the people, not make it harder for them to access important information.

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