Without accountability, there is no democracy

Political Scrapbook has posted an article on how South Tyneside Council has dragged its bureaucratic feet over a Freedom of Information request for its councillors’ statutory register of interests.  Over a year passed and the best that the Council could offer was a ‘come down to the office and have a look’.

If I was being generous, I could dismiss it on the basis that South Tyneside Council has not yet reached the latter years of the 20th century yet and hadn’t heard of the internet.  Or email.  Or fax.  However, that’s difficult to swallow given  that the leader of the council’s day job is in PR, and the Council even has a ‘Sandhaven Beach’ smartphone app.

If, on the other hand, I was being cynical, I could suspect that the Council was being intentionally obstructive and making it as difficult as possible for people to access information about our councillors – information that should be easily available. 

So, does South Tyneside lack a vision of what an open 21st century government might look like?  Is it’s web strategy piss-poor?  Is it incompetent? Or is there a pathetic and parochial local government culture of hiding dirty secrets?

That South Tyneside Council has had no problem spending our council tax money looking to unmask Mr Monkey, but won’t make information easily available makes me wonder where our councillors’ priorities really lie.

Until South Tyneside Council fesses up and opens up, the question Political Scrapbook’s raises, “What on earth are South Tyneside Council trying to hide” will hang around like a bad stench.

Now I wonder, will this story grace the pages of the Shields Gazette?

Hat-tip for this to the excellent Jacqui Thompson at the Carmarthen Planning blog. You can follow her on Twitter: @caebrwyn

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