I had thought that it would be difficult for West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service management to appear any more stupid with their efforts to avoid proper scrutiny, but it appears that they can. Regular visitors to this blog will be aware that even promises made to County Councillors to publish incident performance data have been broken.
Now a group of people has submitted Freedom of Information requests for incident data for the years 2010-2015 to Fire & Rescue Services across the UK. Not sure who they are, but it is probably an academic research project. So far, at least ten Fire & Rescue Services have provided the information and London Fire Brigade has told them that their information is already publicly available on-line from the London Datastore.
So how do West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service respond? They refuse the request, because 'it would threaten national security'. A quite outrageous attempt to misuse the legitimate exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act to withhold information that should be in the public domain.
If there was any substance in the claim, then they would be saying that the at least ten Fire & Rescue Services who have already provided this data have put our national security at risk. Or perhaps they stupidly think that West Sussex is more security sensitive than Essex, Hampshire, Humberside, Lancashire, London, Staffordshire, and West Yorkshire. Neither is the case of course.
Louise Goldsmith insists that West Sussex County Council is open and transparent and David Barling denies that their Fire & Rescue Service is secretive. Well it is time they did something about West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service regularly proving their statements to be untrue.
They should look at the London Fire Brigade example, where detailed incident data is provided on-line and updated monthly. No need for any Freedom of Information Act requests in their case. They say, “we publish this information to assist the public in accessing details of the incidents attended by the London Fire Brigade”. It also saves them an enormous amount of time dealing with requests for incident data.
WSFRS’s desperate attempts to cover up their deteriorating performance have clearly sunk to a new low with this latest irresponsible abuse of the Freedom of Information Act.