LONG Sutton Parish Council’s handling of Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests has been branded “an unprofessional, childish mess”.
FOI activist Doug Paulley, from Wetherby in Yorkshire, fired off an FOI request after learning councillor Julian Browse was unsuccessfully trying to prise information from his own council with two FOIs.
On Wednesday – the day before the council’s regular monthly meeting – members held an extraordinary meeting to discuss Mr Paulley’s FOI request, but it took place an hour earlier than the advertised 7pm start time.
On Thursday, Coun Browse told fellow councillors he missed the meeting because he didn’t know it had been switched to 6pm.
Council chairman Coun John Clarey said he tried to phone Coun Browse at 6.15pm the previous night, but didn’t leave a message because he assumed Coun Browse was already on his way to the meeting.
Coun Browse also protested about the contents of a letter sent to Mr Paulley following the extraordinary meeting by clerk Karen Treacher, saying it contained “extraneous” personal information about him.
Mr Paulley sent in a new FOI about the extraordinary meeting itself, but then withdrew everything because of accusations flying back and forth within the council.
In an email message to Coun Browse, copied to the Spalding Guardian, Mr Paulley explains he thought he should “butt out” of a situation where he clearly didn’t know all the ins and outs. But he also urged Coun Browse to persist with his FOIs.
Mr Paulley says: “I am very glad that you are pushing your FOI rights in this regard, though, and that the ICO are involved.
“In my experience, they are slow but usually come up with the correct decision eventually.
“I very much hope that your efforts come off and that they’re forced to release the information to you and learn from their experience.”
Coun Browse’s FOI requests ask for: plans of allotments and other land owned or administered by the parish council, numbers of burials in parish cemeteries each year from 2001-2010 and numbers of exclusive rights of burial issued each year from 2001-2010.