LBWF, Prevent, and the Freedom of Information Act: censorship in action?

On 17th July 2015, I used the Freedom of Information Act (FIA) to ask LBWF:

‘At a recent hearing in City Hall, Martin Esom (LBWF CEO) claimed re the Prevent programme:

“We try to identify output measures to see how successful we are or otherwise….Our output measures are things like referrals through to Channel and all sorts of things like that. We have quite a broad range of indicators in terms of whether or not we are making any inroads”.

Please can you forward me these output measures/broad range of indicators for 2013 and 2014′.

On 14 August 2015, I received the following response:

‘Mr Tiratsoo,

…I am writing to provide an update to your request for information…

The Service Area has drafted a response, however it needs to be approved by the Deputy Chief Executive for Families Directorate (who is currently on holiday) before the response can be dispatched.

I hope to provide the final response to you by next Wednesday

Regards

Debbie Callender-O’Neill
Families Business Support Officer’

This is more than a little surprising. The general understanding of the FIA is that it allows the ordinary citizen to ask specific questions and get specific answers. Authorities like LBWF have certain rights of refusal; otherwise they are supposed to respond factually with the truth, and without any varnish or screening.

Why the ‘approval’ of the Deputy Chief Executive for Families Directorate is required in this case is far from clear. Are all FIA inquiries so treated, or is this procedure only adopted in the case of certain individuals or certain topics?

Moreover what does the word ‘approval’ mean in this context? Is it about ensuring accuracy; or is it about shaping an answer so that it is congruent with some wider political aims, in other words akin to censorship? If the former, why cannot the ‘Service Area’ be trusted? If the latter, then that is surely a perversion of the legislation?

Whatever the case, LBWF has some explaining to do.

1 Comment

  1. Profile photo of Truth Hurts

    Truth Hurts - August 22, 2015, 3:05 am

    Interesting that the Prevent programme has now been indulged by the LBWF ?

    I do hope it does not turn out like the last programme it ran the gangs prevention programme Enough Is Enough.

    Because very little transparency or accountability was delivered, yet 3 Million pounds of tax payers money was spent with no final budget or report made public to the inhabitants of LBWF.

    I was under the impression that LBWF needed to make massive cuts and slash spending, but it appears they can spend millions on projects that no one knows exactly what was delivered or what the results are.

    Enough Is Enough we do not require another prevention programme, we actually want these games to stop as the 2012 Olympics is well and truly over.

    Please do not insult our intelligence if the council have nothing to hide simply publish the facts on your prevention agenda starting with the missing information on your last GPP programme.

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