30 May 2012

The cost of 'democracy'

As South Somerset District Council continues to obstruct my access to personal information (Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts) two issues occur to me:

1 The similarity between SSDC's current position and the Keenan/Canvin administration's efforts to deny access to public documents and

2 The cost of the current investigation into various complaints against Mr Michael Fraser-Hopewell.

I can't say that I understand the Authority's position regarding my seeking access to material which it is holding and/or processing and which relates to myself. Equally, I am unaware of any section of the Freedom of Information Act which qualifies a 'Fear of Ridicule' as being grounds for denial of access.

The Data Protection Act is also pretty clear with regard to an individual being given access to information which an Authority is holding/processing and which relates to an individual. I will be interested to see what specific sections or exemptions SSDC seeks to hide behind.

Then there is the issue of why SSDC should want to keep such information secret and the 'fear of ridicule' gives something of a clue. What happens if the material in question is so 'ridiculous' that it begs ridicule? Is SSDC seeking to emulate King Canute?

Then there is the cost of the current investigation, a cost which will be borne by the taxpayer. Recent complaints against Cllr Pat Bennett and Cllr Fraser-Hopewell were described in the Western Gazette as being an 'abuse of the complaints procedure'. As the ongoing investigation was triggered by complaints originating, one assumes, from Somerton's 'Old Guard', might SSDC not have seen this as a further example of 'abuse'. I suspect that the current investigation will not be a cheap affair and I hope that someone makes an FoI to find out how much SSDC spent on investigating the claims of Somerton's 'Old Guard'.

Till next time, I'm still Niall Connolly