Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Scottish councillors use Freedom of Information Act to find out what's happening on their own authority

The Daily Record reports that members of Scottish Borders council have been reduced to making request under the Freedom of Information Act to find out what is happening on their own authority.

The three councillors mentioned in the Record are David Paterson (Independent) John Mitchell (SNP) and Catriona Bhatia (Lib Dem). The paper quote Bhatia as saying:
I take issue with the inference that information I sought was available from other sources and that I've been wasting public money. 
"It's one thing being able to request information from departments but quite another to receive it. 
"With respect to officers of the council, you often have to email them many times and are unlikely to get the answer you want within the 20 days set down by the FoI legislation. 
"With an FoI request, it is properly logged and you know the timescale in which you get a response. I'm surprised more councillors don't use the legislation to get the answers that the people who voted for them deserve. 
"There should be a better system in place - where elected members can get the information they want without recourse to FoI."
Trivia fans will know that Catriona Bhatia is the daughter of the former Liberal leader Sir David Steel. In his day Liberal councillors had to take some Labour authorities to court to be allowed to attend meetings.