Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Transparency at East Devon: District Cabinet to consider report: Wednesday 15th July

This blog has considered transparency issues at the District Council for some time:
Futures Forum: Transparency and process in East Devon... a summary

It does depend on your definition of 'transparency':

Transparency of contracts - a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council - WhatDoTheyKnow
Transparency vs. Secrecy | East Devon Alliance

The District Council has adopted the Transparency Code:

Transparency code - East Devon

However, adopting a transparency code is one thing: being transparent is another:
EDDC’s Transparency Code | East Devon Watch

As this comment points out, the District Council is only observing the barest minimum:

The 2015 code requires the following information to be published:

• expenditure Over £500;
• Government Procurement Card transactions;
• procurement Over £5,000.
• local authority land
• social housing assets (by 1 Sept 2015)
• grants to voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations
• organisation chart
• trade union facility time
• parking account
• parking spaces
• senior salaries
• constitution
• pay multiple
• fraud

It is the Social Housing Assets that has been added to the 2015 code – all other information was in the previous version and should already be published by councils. However, the Social Housing Assets information should previously have been published anyway (probably in a different format) under the Housing Revenue Account (Accounting Practices) Directions 2011.

In addition, this and the previous version of the Transparency Code recommend that councils publish the following:

• expenditure – over £250 rather than £500 (EDDC: No)
• expenditure – monthly rather than quarterly (EDDC: Yes)
• expenditure – on corporate credit / debit cards (EDDC: No)
• expenditure – on remuneration (EDDC: No)
• expenditure – classification using standardised CIPFA method (EDDC: No?)
• procurement – above £500 (EDDC: No)
• procurement – data monthly rather than quarterly (EDDC: Yes)
• procurement – the actual contracts over £5,000 (EDDC: No)
• procurement – co reg no. for contracts (EDDC: No)
• procurement – informal invitations to quote (EDDC: No)
• procurement – 12-month forward plan for tenders or quotes (EDDC: No)
• procurement – Ward geographical coverage (EDDC: No)
• procurement – Contract performance indicators (EDDC: No)
• Non-housing assets – monthly rather than quarterly (EDDC: ?)
• Non-housing assets – with Gross Internal Area (EDDC: No)
• Non-housing assets – services offered (LGA classifications) (EDDC: No)
• Non-housing assets – reason held (EDDC: No)
• Non-housing assets – asset of community value (EDDC: No)
• Non-housing assets – revenue expenditure on operation / maintenance (EDDC: No)
• Non-housing assets – required maintenance (i.e. cost of returning building to standard condition) (EDDC: No)
• Non-housing assets – functional suitability (to needs – scale of 1-4) (EDDC: No)
• Non-housing assets – energy performance rating (EDDC: No)
• parking spaces – chargeable spaces (EDDC: No)
• parking spaces – free spaces (EDDC: No)
• organisation chart – employees over £50k (EDDC: ?)
• organisation chart – salary bands (EDDC: ?)
• organisation chart – vacancies (current / future) (EDDC: ?)
• grants – monthly rather than annual (EDDC: No)
• fraud (EDDC: No)

So here is yet another list of areas where EDDC is not exactly championing transparency.

EDDC’s Transparency Code | East Devon Watch

See, for example:
East Devon Spend over £500 - Datasets
Financial information 2014/15 - East Devon

In fact, there doesn't seem to be too much transparency in other areas, for example:

Futures Forum: East Devon's beach huts and the Asset Management Forum
Seaton Beach Huts meeting: not a happy place for EDDC Councillor Pook | East Devon Watch

Tomorrow, Wednesday 15th July, the District Cabinet will be meeting, to consider, amongst other things, its attitude to recent findings by the Information Commissioner and Information Commissioner - and its attitude to 'transparency' - in its report 'Review of recent request for information decisions':
http://eastdevon.gov.uk/media/1208363/150715-combined-agenda.pdf (Pages 181-189)

This is the ICO's decision notice from March 2014:

And this is the Information Tribunal's decision from May 2015:
www.informationtribunal.gov.uk/DBFiles/Decision/i1540/East Devon District Council EA.2014.0072 (05.05.2015).pdf

And this the other ICO decision notice, from May 2015:

Last year, however, the District Council took the step of allowing recording of its public meetings:

An EDDC spokesman said: “We live in a modern digital world where the use of modern communication methods such as filming and tweeting should be embraced for enhancing the openness and transparency of local government.”

New era of transparency? - News - Exmouth Journal

Meanwhile, there is also the issue of lobbying:
Conflicts of interest in East Devon: Scaring the Living Daylights: Anna Minton

See also:
Futures Forum: Lobbying: big business and big government in East Devon
Futures Forum: "What is lobbying?"... "Openness and transparency is vital."
Futures Forum: Transparency and lobbying: District Council "agrees with the principle" of "declaring any contact with developers or campaign groups"
Futures Forum: Transparency and lobbying: District Council to consider report re 'significant lobbying': Tuesday 20th January

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