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News and Comment July 2012

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23 July (Part 2) - Bexley council arguing with Eric Pickles again

Teresa O'Neill and Eric PicklesEric Pickles the Communities Secretary labours under a quaint misapprehension that councils have the best interests of their populations at heart and given the choice between honest transparency and secrecy and deception they will choose the former. In Bexley that is never true.

The prime example was the way Bexley council changed its Constitution for no other reason than to thwart Eric’s guidance on handling “armchair auditors” and “citizen journalists”. And they are still at it.

Mr. Pickles put out a ‘Recommended practice for local authorities on data transparency’ for consultation. The item that grabbed the headlines was to list the names of local government employees who earn more than £58,200 a year. Talking about their over-inflated salaries, Bexley has the sixth highest in the country, is anathema to Bexley council, they even deliberately misapplied inappropriate rules to suppress discussion on the subject after 2,219 residents asked for a debate.

Bexley council is campaigning that Pickles shouldn’t be allowed to get away with his ideas for opening the books to public scrutiny. It has asked him to exempt from publication any sums handed out to voluntary organisations that are £10,000 and under. Please keep them secret they plead. Are they handing out money to organisations that are a little too close to home perhaps?

“Bexley believes that £58,200 for the disclosure of senior salary levels is set at too low a threshold. We feel that only the salaries of Chief Officers should be published.” So there they go again. Bexley wants absolutely nothing to do with openness and transparency and is fighting a rear-guard action against their own government. Everywhere you look they don’t want you to. There must be a reason for it and it’s not going to be an honest one.

Link to pdf file.


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