A non-job of the week with a twist today. Barnet Council do not like criticism, and it seems the council will go to any lengths to make sure it silences its critics.
A local blogger, writing under the pseudonym Mr Mustard, criticised Barnet Council for hiring a Change and Innovation Manager in 2010 on a salary of £47,550 -£50,913. It sounds very much like the sort of non-job I highlight on here every week. He quoted from the job description, which has to be said is written in perfect gobbledegook, and also quoted from the personal website of the man who got the job – Jonathan Tunde-Wright.
Although I have joked in the past about receiving a letter from Oxford City Council’s solicitor for harassment after all the non-jobs I have highlighted in the past, I have of course never received one. Nor should I. Freedom of speech is something we hold dear in this country, unless you are from Barnet Borough Council.
The council went to the extraordinary lengths of contacting the Information Commissioner claiming Mr Mustard had committed a criminal offence under the Data Protection Act by not registering as a data controller because he had made critical comments about whether some of its officials have real jobs! The commissioner rightly disagreed, but that didn’t stop the council. It then came up with what can only be described as the most ludicrous description of what he could write about. The One Barnet blog has the full details of the correspondence between the ICO and the Council.
The council said all that bloggers (and that includes us on this website) can write about is their own personal data, their own family defined as people related by blood or marriage and their own household, which is anyone living in their house or flat. Barnet Council claims everything else requires registration and can be subject to a legal challenge.
The Information Commissioner disagreed again, saying this would have a hugely disproportionate impact on freedom of expression.
Because Mr Mustard (real name Derek Dishman) regularly holds his council to account on his blog, and sends in freedom of information requests to find out how our money is spent, he is regarded as an inconvenience. This may be so, but as he is not writing anything defamatory, he is within his rights to write about anything he likes – inconvenient or not.
So not only do we have a job with a more than dubious title offering £50K a year, we also have the council employing its staff to actively prevent anyone of us criticising them. If Barnet Council had its way, none of us would be able to speak out against waste and hold councils to account.
Hat-tip: David Hencke