Councillor lodges FOI his own council

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UNDER-FIRE Long Sutton councillor Julian Browse is pursuing two Freedom of Information Act requests to prise information out of his own council.

But his move has put the cat among the pigeons with fellow councillors rounding on him to toe the line.

At the last parish council meeting, Coun Bobbie Ashton successfully tabled a motion “to resolve the members abide by the democratic decisions of the council and not to seek to use outside authorities to undermine those decisions” – and that councillors should abide by their code of conduct.

The council has a long term plan to provide more burial space, possibly using allotment land it owns, and Coun Browse asked to be told the number of burials over the last ten years and to have a plan of the allotments so he can judge how many graves might be needed in the future.

When he couldn’t get the information at council meetings, he put in two Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. But answers were still not supplied by the parish council.

When the issue resurfaced at the latest meeting, clerk Karen Treacher revealed she had received advice from the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) on the council’s actions, but did not want to discuss the issue in open session.

Coun Pauline Dickinson reminded members: “It was resolved at the parish council that these matters would not be looked into because it would be too time consuming for the clerk.”

Coun Browse says he is awaiting the Freedom of Information office response to the council not supplying the details requested.

He said: “The whole thing is just a storm in a teacup.”

“As far as the burials are concerned, all you have got to do is pick up the burials’ ledger and count them up for each year and that is not going to take any more than 10-15 minutes. It’s crazy.”

Coun Browse said he is happy to abide by the councillors’ code of conduct, but his FOI inquiries were made as a member of the public and he is just as entitled as anyone else to make them.