Open Data In The West Lancashire Borough Council

Open data in the public sector is about increasing transparency and sharing the information we hold with the wider community. The Local Government Transparency Code places requirements on local authorities to publish information in order to increase democratic accountability and make it easier for local people to contribute to the local decision-making process and help shape public services”. 

But does such a requirement extend to the little known, mysterious WLBC Flooding & Drainage Cabinet Working Group? It seems not, as you visit the WLBC website to check its work. Go to “Browse meetings. Flooding & Drainage Cabinet Working Group” to be informed “This page lists the meetings for Flooding & Drainage Cabinet Working Group”. And then “More information about Flooding & Drainage Cabinet Working Group” followed by “No Flooding & Drainage Cabinet Working Group meetings are available for browsing”.

Transparency does not apply to this working group. You consider it to be a secret talking shop. So you ask why and are told “It is somewhat disappointing that you consider the Cabinet Working Group to be merely a ‘talking shop’.  The purpose of the Group, as set out in the Terms of Reference is as follows: (a) To consider how a wider, more co-ordinated approach to managing flooding and drainage across the whole Borough could be achieved. (b)  To liaise with the Environment Agency, Lancashire County Council as the Lead Local Flood Authority, United Utilities, neighbouring Local Authorities, and any other relevant bodies on the issue of flooding and drainage. (c)  To investigate any opportunities for relevant funding from appropriate bodies. (d)  To report back to the relevant Portfolio Holder and Cabinet and, where appropriate, future meetings of Full Council with its findings and recommendations. (e) To give consideration to all the issues and options associated with the establishment of an Internal Drainage Board.

And “It is important that there is a full understanding by Members of this Council’s role and responsibilities in order that recommendations can be made about how there can be better co-ordination between agencies and how funding can be sought to improve matters locally. Whilst Members have been briefed in the past, we now have new Members on the Council and, unlike officers, they cannot be expected to know all the intricacies of the legislation or the responsibilities of all the different agencies, on what are complex matters”.

There is more. But by now you wonder why this information hasn’t met the transparency criteria. No state secrets, no commercial in confidence, no confidentiality. Just members who might misunderstand complex intricacies of legislation.

Is it any wonder why council tax payers are bemused by officer bullshittery about the mismanagement of flooding and drainage?

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