Saturday, 24 January 2015

The Secrecy Farce Continues

On the 8th January I reported that West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service were concealing information and had refused details to a member of the public. Well he complained and is so disgusted with the reply that he sent it to me. Instead of apologising and providing the information requested, he received a verbose list of excuses, but no information.

To help understand the key points in the letter, I have provided an interpretation below:

What they said
What they meant
“There was a misinterpretation of your initial request”
We don’t want you to know about our poor crewing performance and increased response times.
“The service no longer provides such information as it can prove misleading to the public”
We are worried that the public may understand this information too well and start asking awkward questions.
“It is important to ensure we provide this comprehensive and consistent level of detail and context regarding the information we provide”
We are making the information less comprehensive and consistent in the hope that people will not know that we failed to ensure adequate crewing at their local fire station.
“Our operational resources may be mobilised from any location in the County”
They always have been, but we are struggling to find an excuse for the cover up.
“Such data has been misinterpreted or used out of context, in the public domain”
We don’t like anyone telling the media and the public what is really going on.
“Giving data based upon home station references, may not provide accurate information regarding our mobilising and response standards”
Saying which station the fire engines were sent from may reveal our appalling crewing shortages and longer response times. All set to get worse after the next round of cuts.
“The investigation identified that this level of information to an individual who has some degree of understanding of ‘Emergency Service Operations’, could conceivably be construed as ‘patronising’”
We are happy to patronise people and to insult the public’s intelligence, if it will help cover up our failings.
We will “consider ascertaining the level of detail required by the requestor and their level of knowledge and intended use of this information, before responding”
We are still going to look at ways of withholding the information for as long as possible, even though it is contrary to WSCC policy on being ‘totally transparent’.
“The investigation also determined that such a request for detailed information would be more consistently and comprehensively handled via a ‘freedom of information’ (FOI) request.”
We want to make this as difficult as possible for the media and public to get the information.
If you are unhappy ….. please ask the Customer Relations Team to arrange a Chief Executive’s review, after which the Chief Executive will send a final response to your complaint.
We did not know that West Sussex County Council does not have a Chief Executive, after the post was made redundant a year ago.

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