When is a report not a report?
…when it is written (or not) by Essex County Council.
There’s a long backstory here and we really haven’t got the time to blog about it all.
Basically ‘The Chronic’ (hellooo!) has taken an active interest in the failure of both Essex County Council and Colchester Borough Council to build a cycle path between Wivenhoe and the University.
This was part of the deal allowing the University to build a multi-story car park, as passed by CBC Planning back in May 2012.
The car park has long since been operational; the University spunked up £250k, but there is still no sign of the cycle path.
ECC has contributed a further £250k – ECC now wants to build a path that has risen to a figure of £750k, despite the original path being estimated at only £250k.
Hey hoe, Wivenhoe…
The ridiculous £750k figure came out of a public consultation that took place towards the end of 2013.
ECC didn’t publish the results of the consultation, but claimed that the £750k option was the most popular.
The Chronic was unsure about this, and so we FoI-ed the arse off ECC.
We’re still no clearer about the claim that the £750k option was the winner.
What did emerge in the FoI trawl was that a Cycle Path Consultation Report was prepared by by Alan Lindsay, the Transport Strategy and Engagement [ARF] Manager at ECC.
Looky, looky over here.
“The consultation response report is being finalised at present and will be issued as soon as possible.”
Our interest was in seeing how yer man interpreted the consultation data to reach this final BONKERS decision.
And so we FoI-ed ECC once again to see a copy of the report.
What came back was…
The bloody data that we had already been sent in the previous FoI, despite our very clear reminder that we wanted the report, and not the data.
And so we lodged an internal review.
This finally came back to us late this afternoon, just in time for the legal 20 day period when ECC has to respond.
There was no bloody report.
The Information Services Manager at ECC has written to The Chronic clarifying:
“I have reviewed all of the correspondence / emails regarding your Freedom of Information request and note that reference was made to a report being produced following the consultation.
After discussing this with the Officers concerned, I am advised that a formal report was not produced and that the report referred to in the email correspondence was a compilation and breakdown of the data gathered during the consultation.”
Even after referenced it in an internal email?
This makes a farce not only of FoI’s, but more importantly of the transparency of ECC. How can we take decision making seriously when it claims that no report has been produced, yet reference has been made to it previously in a private email?
All is not lost. This mis-management of information at ECC has led to the recommendation:
“Formal reports should be written following all consultations to clearly evidence the outcome of the consultation.”
Silly us for assuming that once a public consultation had taken place, ECC would be decent enough to let the public know of the formal outcome.
We’re still none the clearer how the £750k cycle path decision was reached without the preparation of a report.
Meanwhile there is still no cycle path between Wivenhoe and the University, despite a generous ‘contribution’ from both the University and CBC.
On yer bike.