Posts Tagged ‘Freedom of Information’

Resources down the drain(s)?

January 14, 2016

A recent article Government planning thousands of new homes in flood plains in The Ecologist assessed a ‘plan’ that seeks to build some 9000 new homes in floodplains ….

Mary Dhonau OBE, a flood campaigner, told Greenpeace: “No developer in their right mind would build a house in the middle of the river so why build it where we know the river will be when the floods come? It’s setting people up for misery. In the light of the appalling floods we’ve seen in Cumbria, coupled with the threat that climate change brings – it has never been more essential that new homes are not built where there is a risk of flooding.”

But the government are to fast track developments in flood zones.  Read the full article to learn how Greenpeace established the areas and the level of risk.  Readers may recall that we asked that you consider responding to the government consultation on proposed changes to the FoI legislation.  Had not Greenpeace been able to obtain important information, funded through the public purse in the first instance, then use this to establish risk then people unaware of an areas ‘potential’ would be left with a mess to sort out?  This is a prime example of why it is crucial that the FoI legislation is strengthened not weakened?

Let’s hope that the issue of floods and land use remain high on the medias agenda and that of conservation because it is evident that much public money will be spent, but …. will it deliver value for money?  Will it be predicated on robust science, or will those with vested interest endeavour to manipulate and manage the discussions to steer the outcomes favourable to their agendas?

See an interesting commentary on a recent parliamentary discussion via Standing up for nature likewise in a new nature blog.  Read the Hansard report on the debate.  Surely the debate is not simply food or floods, more it is about a holistic and strategic approach to land use?  Oh dear that’s probably too much for government to tackle in their short-term economic ‘outbursts’?

We have been relatively fortunate here in the Humberhead Levels, whilst we have experienced precipitation it has not been the ‘unprecedented’ scale much heralded in the media.  The image below shows an area in the Danvm Drainage Commissioner’s area, an area which saw a massively engineered solution to mining subsidence relatively recently ….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fishlake January 2016

It looks like Avery’s petition will pass another milestone tonight, but more signatures are needed to see upland land management more sympathetic to wildlife.

Ban driven grouse shooting

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Call for Action: Freedom of Information under threat?

November 15, 2015

The Campaign for Freedom of Information provides a useful resume of the threat to democracy and to those who seek accountability of Public Bodies funded through the public purse.

In July the Government announced that a Commission would be set up to to examine the FOI Act and consider what further restrictions should be imposed on the right to know.

The Prime Minister also confirmed that policy responsibility for Freedom of Information policy will transfer from the Ministry of Justice to the Cabinet Office. This change will be effective from 17 July 2015.

After sitting for 3 months, the Commission has now finally invited the public to submit evidence to it.  The Consultation closes this Friday, 20 November 2015 and we understand that the results are promised by the end of November!

Already 140 campaign groups and media bodies and others have written to the Prime Minister expressing concerns about the composition and terms of reference of the Commission.

Readers have a week to compose a response to the consultation, will this campaign to clamp down on open transparent governance and accounting attract as good a response as the recent attempts to ‘challenge’ the Habitats Directives? That consultation we understand attracted some 552,471 responses!

The Campaign are asking people to consider some easy actions:

Respond to the consultation drawing on your own experience of the value of the FOI Act

Write to your MP

Submit your FOI stories to saveFOI.uk

Sign a petition, 38 degree petition to Protect FoI Laws here

There is also a petition option for journalists to sign, via Change.org here

Public Bodies are required to have regard and to comply with the Freedom of Information Act.  Whilst many are efficient and indeed helpful there are other Public Bodies which publish material without provision of primary source evidence, there are Public Bodies which try to evade compliance through selective narrative and dissembling, some Public Bodies assert applicants are persistent / vexatious complainers in an endaevour to avoid providing information about activity or spend of public funds, is this demonstrable open and transparent conduct of business?  To avoid wasting time and suffering such problems readers might like to consider using using Whatdotheyknow as a tool to submit FoI requests.  The benefit of this route is that any request is public, anyone researching the Public Body you are seeking information from can also benefit from the information you receive.  It is visible to the entire world wide web (www).  Even when Whatdotheyknow is utilised, there is often only partial success but that is illustrative of compliance level as well as tactics used by Public Bodies?  Please note other options are available and the Forum has no ‘Interest’ in this website, but we do recognise the excellent service it provides to members of the public and researchers.  Whatdotheyknow are also appealing to people to act to save FoI

Comments on the My Society page suggests that they would like to see it expanded not curtailed, bring it on?  There are also some interesting suggestions as to the reason behind the Prime Minister’s plans?

 

Greenblobpride

DMBC What Do They Know about Danvm Drainage Commissioners?

August 18, 2014

Regular readers may recall the post of 20 July when we reported submitting a Freedom of Information request through the website WhatDoTheyKnow.  Well the deadline for a response, according to the website is 18 August.  That’s today …. but I suppose that technically they have until midnight?

DMBC did respond quickly to confirm receipt of the enquiry

Dear Thorne & Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum

Re: Request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000

Thank you for your request for information.

Your request has been passed to the Audit department. They will endeavour to search for any information held to provide you with a response as soon as is possible within 20 working days and in any case by the 15th August 2014.

Yours sincerely

Sarah Winn
Finance & Corporate Services,
Customer Services & ICT
Doncaster Council, Civic Office, Waterdale, Doncaster, DN1 3BU

So, absolutely nothing not even a request to extend the period of search.  What should we do next?  Given that DMBC indicated that we would receive a reply by 15 August, we have requested an internal review of this case and their handling of it.

Many Drainage Boards are archaic in their modus operandi, even those which have ‘modernised’ operate under some interesting governance regimes.  Examples of this can be found in the minutes which are sometimes made available on their websites.  Those for the DDC for example are located in ‘News’, ten sets are available with the earliest available are from 2012.

The Forum’s area of geographic interest is broadly speaking the Humberhead Levels and the Drainage Boards which operate around Thorne & Hatfield Moors SSSI and the peripheral wetlands include the Doncaster East IDB, the Black Drain DB and the Danvm Drainage Commissioners.  Members of the public are entitled to observe conduct of business by these boards as generally the majority of funding received by the boards is through Special Levy (public funds).

 


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