Thursday, October 28, 2010

It's more likely Pickles' department is incompetent

There is a rather interesting story over on Labour Uncut this morning about the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles refusing to answer a Freedom of Information request, and so questions Pickles' alleged love for transparency.

Essentially, the tale goes thus. An unnamed source at the DCLG slagged off the char of the Electoral Commission to the press. It's then reported by the Local Government Chronicle that Pickles sought legal advice internally to see if the slagging off was actionable. There is then a possibility that Pickles went to an external legal advisor for a second opinion.

The FoI that was submitted asked for the DCLG to confirm that second opinion story, and the DCLG said that it was "unable to either confirm nor deny" that it holds the information requested. As Labour Uncut points out, the "guidance from the information commissioner on FoI requests says that departments have a duty to confirm or deny whether the information requested is held".

Naturally this has led Labour Uncut to the conclusion that Pickles only wants others to be transparent and doesn't play by the rules himself. There is of course an alternative explanation.... sheer incompetence.

You see, this is a Government department after all, and the fact that they can't confirm or deny that they hold information suggests that what they're actually saying is "we don't know", which equally translates to "we're not very good at keeping records".

Conspiracy to conceal the truth, or Government department incompetence? It's up to you. I know which one I would go for every time, but then I'm a complete cynic.

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