- LEWISHAM ACCUSED OF HYPOCRISY OVER CLAIMS TO BE OPEN AND TRANSPARENT AS COUNCIL COMES SECOND TO BOTTOM ON FREEDOM OF INFORMATION IN LONDON...
Lewisham council’s claim to be improving openness through its democracy reviews has been attacked by Lewisham Liberal Democrats after research reveals that Lewisham is second from the bottom over dealing with Freedom of Information (FoI) requests.
One FoI request went unanswered for 231 working days and another for 112 working days – way over the 20 working days allowed under FoI legislation. Overall, only 61% of requests were dealt with on time by Lewisham, just beating Hounslow who were worst with 60% of requests dealt with on time.
The information is contained in a new report on London councils by the Campaign for Freedom of Information. The report also shows that Lewisham is very slow to respond to enforcement action by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – in one case taking three months to respond to the ICO.
Lewisham Council last week approved the final report from its Democracy Review, which aimed to improve openness and transparency in the council. Lewisham Lib Dems had previously criticised the review for having a Labour chair and only Labour councillors on the working. It has also emerged that the two outside experts who contributed to the review are also from the Labour party – one worked for Labour MPs and one was a Labour councillor in Newham.
Lewisham Lib Dems have also now pointed out that the final report of the Democracy Review does not even mention the words “freedom of information” and has no recommendations about improving Lewisham’s poor record on freedom of information.
Commenting on the research, Max Brockbank, Lib Dem candidate for the Whitefoot by-election on May 2nd, said:
“This is basic hypocrisy from Labour in Lewisham. They talk a good game on openness and transparency but when it comes to actually answering freedom of information requests, they’re pretty much bottom of the table. I do wonder what they have to hide.
“Lewisham needs strong independent voices on the council, challenging the complacency of Labour and pushing for real transparency. Residents in the Whitefoot and Evelyn by-elections have the chance to vote for change and end the closed shop at the top of the council.”
- Report from Campaign for Freedom of Information on London council’s Freedom of Information performance, published in March 2019: https://www.cfoi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/FOI-good-practice-a-survey-of-london-local-authorities.pdf
- The report found that an FoI request to Lewisham was unanswered after 231 working days (more than 11 calendar months). The Information Commissioner twice intervened to tell the council to answer, without success, until finally ordering it to reply.
- The report of Lewisham Council’s Local Democracy Review was agreed at the Full Council meeting on 3rd April 2019. See http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/documents/s64094/Local%20Democracy%20Review%20Report%20April%202019.pdf
- See https://www.lewishamlibdems.org.uk/democracy_review_undemocratic for Lewisham Lib Dem criticism of the Local Democracy Review