This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The transparent Queen's shilling

I have written about this matter before but after a couple of blocked FoI requests recently, I thought I would raise the subject again. I think the Freedom of Information Act should be made to apply to all organisations / alliances / partnerships that spend the Queen's shilling (our money in other words).

Increasingly, I suspect, more and more public services will be outsourced to the private sector, (despite my concerns and challenges!). Regular readers will know that I have many difficulties with this policy: ethical and practical. The practical bit I cover here and the ethical bit has much to do with purpose of public services and how this purpose can be compromised in a for-profit organisation. But this piece is not really about the arguments for or against outsourcing.

But given this shift, and the fundamental principle that those who spend public money should be accountable for it, I think it is plainly wrong that large corporations on commission from the government (at all levels) should be allowed to hide behind 'commercial confidentiality'.

I won't bore you with the whole story but recently some public organisations in Buckinghamshire tendered for a service from another provider. I simply asked the question: what was the cost? They would not tell me, citing commercial confidentiality. So our money is being spent and the won't even tell me how much, let alone any further details. Regular readers will also remember the battle I had to get the risk register for the joint programme of work between Lincolnshire Police and G4S which was initially blocked (partly) on grounds of commercial confidentiality. Although, I eventually won after appealing to the information commissioner, I may not have done.

If there is no change in the law and we continue to see more of our public services being outsourced, we will know less and less about how and where our money is being spent.

So please join my campaign! 

All you have to do is post #FoI4all on twitter and your reason for supporting the change. Easy. Talk about with your friends and colleagues. Easy. Put motions into your professional association, trade union, residents committee, council, governing body etc.... All easy...

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