Fernbank Farm – why won’t the Town Hall list it’s other ‘400 sites’?

During one exchange, the Town Hall told me that Fernbank Farm had been chosen for disposal over and above another 400 potential sites.  Being a naturally inquisitive and, by this point, suspicious councillor, I asked for a list of these 400 sites and the most recent valuation.

Guess what?  They won’t tell me.  No doubt the victims of the Town Hall’s overcharging scandal were given the same brush off.

Isn’t this typical of the attitude of the ‘we know best’ brigade in the Town Hall?  Happy to quote facts and figures in the hope of blinding you with data but unable or unwilling to provide the evidence to back up their claims.

So, after a protracted series of requests under the wonderful Freedom of Information Act, they’ve still refused and told me if I am still unhappy to go to the Information Commissioner’s Office instead.  So, today, I have.

Meanwhile, blogger John Brace reports on a recent report to the Cabinet about how the Council manages such requests and he quotes the Deputy Leader of the Council as saying: “the key problem here that we have a high volume of FOIs from a small number of people”.  

Cllr. McLachlan is right in what she says but this whole appalling saga of Fernbank Farm demonstrates why she has this problem.

If, having asked a perfectly reasonable question, you are fobbed off, how many people would be satisfied with not having an answer?  So people keep asking and, each time the number of FoI requests grows…

Until the Town Hall gives me the list of these 400 ‘other’ sites, I can only speculate as to why Mr Simpson and ‘Asset Management’ ruled them out, based on their known conduct and behaviour to date.

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One comment

  1. Thanks for the link, perhaps the solution would be to invite the dozen people who’ve made the most FOI requests to the Town Hall on a particular day and time to a public meeting (similar to the November meeting of the Improvement Board last year), where questions can be tabled in advance (along with the right to a supplementary question). Senior managers and politicians can then recorded on tape (so the public can see how “open and transparent” the administration is) answer those questions.

    Wirral Council would (if they did the above) probably save the costs of answering about three dozen FOI requests (which has got to be less than room hire and salary costs for a few hours), any grievances people had would be aired, discussed and things would be dealt with in a grown up way and soured relationships could be repaired. I’m sure considering how well attended the last one was, hundreds of people would turn up.

    However, since the Improvement Board left, as the official line is everything is (said in a similar way to Tony the Tiger’s catchphrase “great”), it might contradict this “rose tinted spectacles” view if for example awkward questions were asked about a predicted ~£3 million overspend this financial year. Hasn’t the Labour administration been criticising the Conservatives (or at least Cllr Phil Davies has) for a predicted £17 million overspend when they came into office and it now looks like they’re on course for an overspend of their own?!

    So yes, pigs might fly!


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