23 June 2012

Not quite so helpful.........

In my experience, South Somerset District Council has always been very helpful when it came to Freedom of Information requests. Or, at least it used to be very helpful until I started to make enquiries about the serial complainers who were targeting the ex-Chair of Somerton Town Council, Cllr Fraser-Hopewell. The Somerton rumour mill suggested that some of these complaints implicated myself and that was confirmed when SSDC's investigator contacted me seeking my voluntary co-operation in the investigation. We met in mid March and our conversation gave me a fair idea of the identity of some of the complainers and also an idea of the levels of paranoia that they clearly experience.

As a consequence of that meeting I decided to present an FoI to SSDC seeking copies of any and all documents which relate to myself or Muck & Brass, held or being processed by SSDC. And that was when SSDC became a little less co-operative. In response to a previous FoI, SSDC stated that they did not wish to disclose the requested information because they feared that those involved (ie the complainers) might be subject to 'ridicule' by myself, here on Muck & Brass. I am tempted to clarify the situation and say that 'ridicule' is a certainty, and why not?

In helping SSDC with their investigation, I gained the clear impression that the raft of complaints, numbering at least 7, are entirely malicious in intent. The focus being to do as much damage as possible to the reputation of one individual. That being the case, should those complainers not be subject to ridicule? Should they not have their paranoid delusions paraded in public?

In April I made another FoI of SSDC on a more specific subject and the consideration period expired in mid May when I found that SSDC had made their own interpretation of the enquiry and answered a question that I had not asked. This resulted in the presentation of a clarification which I understand SSDC treated as a new FoI. The consideration period for this new FoI expired last week but I allowed some leeway to allow for the Jubilee celebrations and sought a status update early this week. Silence. A second request for an update was also met with silence so, regrettably, I contacted the Office of the Information Commissioner and lodged a complaint against SSDC.

I do wonder why SSDC have become so unhelpful and it may well be that they would like the whole thing to go away. Other complaints coming from Somerton's Old Guard have already been described in the press as an 'abuse of the complaints procedure' and it may well be that SSDC see the raft of complaints against Cllr Fraser-Hopewell as being more of the same. But whilst SSDC do have a duty to investigate legitimate complaints, they also have a duty of care to protect those complained about if complaints are just paranoid delusions or malicious in intent. Protecting these complainers will only encourage them to carry on their abuses.

Till next time, I'm still Niall Connolly

PS. Try this - The Band Perry and 'If I die young'