Nutsville Guide To Westminster FOI Responses

The Freedom Of Information Act 2000

This Act means that you, the public, can ask questions of public authorities and they have to respond – Within certain criteria. This article is about how Westminster Council abuse the Act in order to keep things from the public and how we can translate all the bumf into real English. The ethos of the Law is for public authorities to share information that is rightfully ours.

Example 1 -No, we don’t have it. Really, we don’t.

Westminster traffic regulations dont apply to these people

Westminster traffic regulations don't apply to these people

Someone has placed an FOI about an article on Nutsville whereby a Westminster ‘Safer Streets’ van carried out an illegal right turn. The questioner asks how the driver was reprimanded and any communications sent to employees about breaking the law.

WCC respond but decline an answer under the FOI rules which is:

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 entitles any person to make a request to a public authority in respect of information that they hold. Section 1(4) of the Act requires that the information to be communicated must be the information in question held at the time when the request is received, except for any amendment or deletion that would have been made regardless of the receipt of the request.

We are therefore unable to comment any events recorded by third parties, where this would mean creating new information or giving an opinion or judgment that is not already recorded.”

What they are saying is they didn’t have the information at the time of the request. In this case that’s not strictly true as the FOI included the photographic evidence of the Westminster employee clearly making a right turn against the signs. Westminster have used the FOIA to dodge the facts and plaster over the cracks, yes, a cover up. Just like this evasion technique regarding more Wesminster traffic offences.

One questioner asks, specifically, how the income from motorcycle parking taxes are spent and reinvested. Westminster respond that they don’t hold the information… No wonder they ‘lost’ money in Icelandic banks if they don’t know where their money is going.

Example 2 – Yes I said that and I have the evidence to prove it!

Angela Harvey said in the Times: “We’re always getting little old ladies who are knocked down and abused by a cyclist, who leaves them on the ground as they ride away.”

A couple of FOI’s went in about that throwaway line – antagonising motorcyclists and cyclists alike. The fact is there is no ‘evidence’ to back up this lie, Harvey used the emotive paragraph to drum up support for Westminster’s new whizzer fund raiser idea of wanting to charge cyclists for minor misdemeanors. It couldn’t be about protecting old ladies knocked over in Westminster because they don’t exist, it’s a lie!

In this FOI the questioner asks about the cost of a Westminster Council email sent to private and public organisations alike to cajole them into publicly speak out about a legal demonstration from the No To Bike Parking people. The council respond by saying the costs of the email were ‘negligible’ and despite being asked to define ‘negligible’ they wouldn’t. Four months down the line they refuse to answer using the FOIA “we don’t hold the information” get out. If they didn’t have the information how come four months previously they say the email costs to the public was ‘negligible’?

The now infamous Batty BurbridgeMotorcycles pollute more than Hummers, even small ones” is another example of how people working for the public use badly informed internet content in order to further their own small minded projects. Or this one asking about Danny Chalkley’s accusation that the Albanian Mafia were stealing money from Westminster Parking Meters, Westminster say there’s no record of the cash stolen. So how can they base so much public change on nothing?

Example 3 – Oh I can’t be arsed so I’ll just lie or ignore it, maybe it’ll go away.

When Westminster get put on the ropes they just lose it. In this FOI the questioner persists and Westminster accuse them of putting in 10 FOI requests that Westminster want to aggregate them and charge £962.50 for the pleasure.

This one was about a podcast that Westminster demanded be removed from the internet. They accused the student journalist of lying to get the podcast pulled (must have been flattering to them!). However, the journalist denies their slur and seems to have acted impeccably.

Ignore, ignore, ignore (there are more trust us!) seems to be a good tactic for Westminster but it’s not one that will get past the Information Comissioners Office, we have a right to know these facts. Don’t worry about taking your FOI to the ICO, it’s easy and painless.

The Freedom Of Information Act has provided information to the public to empower them to ask questions of those who pretend to represent us. Without the FOIA we would maybe never have known about the MP’s expenses scandal. As authorities like Westminster turn to unpopular taxes to create income the more people will turn to the FOIA in order to get the ammunition to ask the right questions. It’s about time those who are paid well to stop pretending to be public servants and become real public servants. Ultimately, it’s down to the voters to clear the council of these lying twisters.

As the number of people putting in FOI requests to Westminster rises, so does the cost to Westminster (and its residents!) and so we’ll end with FOI 57099. In this one, despite Westminster squirming, it’s revealed the cost of providing the back office to deal with FOI requests to Westminster is:

Period Budget
1 – April 2009 to September 2009 inclusive £92, 695
2 – October 2008 to March 2009 inclusive £58, 900
3 – April 2008 to September 2008 inclusive £58, 900
4 – October 2007 to March 2008 inclusive £54, 150

And if you read the FOI you’ll know that’s not the real cost to Westminster residents, it’s much more. It’s also a rising trend.

If you want to put in an FOI request to Westminster you can try the www.whatdotheyknow.com website or use Westminster’s own FOI webpages or via email to foi@westminster.gov.uk or in writing to:

address
Corporate FOI Team,
Westminster City Council

64 Victoria Street

London

SW1E 6QP

telephone
020 7641 3921 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 020 7641 3921 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

fax
0207 641 2872 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 0207 641 2872 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

If you have a story you think needs a wider public audience please email us at:

news@nutsville.com

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