“£40k spent hiding how rarely northern powerhouse minister visited north”

“The government has spent two years and £40,000 of taxpayers’ money trying to hide how little the northern powerhouse minister visited the north of England in his role, in what one prominent northern figure called “a blatant disregard for the principles of democratic accountability”. …

The Information Commissioner’s Office then undertook an investigation, during the course of which it found that the department adopted “what appears to have been a strategy of wilful procrastination in order to obstruct a request for information”.

The DCLG appealed against the decision to the first-tier tribunal of information rights, where in early 2018 Judge Hazel Oliver ruled that the department must hand over Wharton’s diary.

From start to finish, the process took 26 months. …

Hidden in 111 pages of internal DCLG emails relating to the FoI request is a document headlined “Official – Sensitive” dating from March 2016 which includes official advice stating “there is a strong likelihood of a decision to withhold the requested information … being overturned”.

Legal experts are unimpressed. “It sounds like a classic: they knew they were likely to lose and still wasted time and money on it, and come out looking even worse,” said Paul Bernal, senior lecturer in law at the University of East Anglia.

Manchester-based data protection consultant Tim Turner said: “Departments have shown time and again that they’re very secretive about who ministers meet and what they do, and spending £40,000 to hide it doesn’t seem close to the spirit of open government.”

The information that the government tried to suppress for two years shows that Wharton rarely left London as part of his role as the north’s representative in government.

Of the 693 lines of entries in Wharton’s ministerial diary, just under half contain identifiable addresses or office rooms in the “Location” column. Ninety percent of them are based in London. …”


One thought on ““£40k spent hiding how rarely northern powerhouse minister visited north”

  1. Accountability is the cornerstone of democracy. And accountability requires transparency as a prerequisite.

    So what this actually shows is a government that doesn’t want to be transparent or accountable and which is therefore undemocratic. PERIOD.

    But of course we already know this from a series of even more despicable anti-democratic activities such as…

    * Academy schools – let’s call a spade a spade rather than a Loam Relocation Tool – in which case whilst “Academy Schools” sounds like a project to improve standards, the reality is that it is PRIVATISATION OF THE EDUCATION SYSTEM (by stealth). The few schools which have been turned into Academies have been done without proper safeguards, as the stream of stories about Academy companies looting reserve funds and paying their executives huge sums from public funds and then abandoning the schools as a lost cause is starting to make clear, but this is not the real scandal. The real scandal is that Academy Schools was NOT in the 2015 Conservative General Election Manifesto, yet when they won the election they suddenly came up with a policy to make EVERY school in the UK an Academy School, and to put this to a parliamentary vote without debate. Yes – that is a true story – it is NOT fake news. Go research it for yourself. Then ask yourself just how democratic that was?

    * NHS – the government has created a massive bureaucracy to administer the NHS Market (another euphemism for PRIVATISATION) but will not tell us how much this bureaucracy actually costs to run. Estimates vary between £10 and £30 – no, not single £, but £BILLIONS PER YEAR. Yes – you heard that right – it costs between £10BN and £30BN per year to just administer the NHS Market. And that is just the cost to the NHS – we should expect the organisations that bid and the organisations that win to spend at least as much as that from their side too, and of course then there are the profits which are taken out by the privatised companies. Now the private money spent on admin and dividends and executive bonuses has to come from somewhere – and it comes from the NHS budget. So the NHS Market might cost us as much as £100BN PER YEAR to administer – and that is money that could be spent on other things like … da da da dahhhhhh … actual healthcare. So don’t kid yourself about there being a shortage of money in the NHS – all they need to do is to stop wasting all this money on Conservative Party privatisation dogma and spend it on real healthcare and suddenly the NHS will be solvent again, and have enough funds to provide EVERYONE with the healthcare they need, and have enough left over to fund social care too. And yes, I know this sounds too good to be true – or rather too terrible to be true – but research it yourself.

    * BBC – the Government told the BBC that it was biased against the Government and that it was going to remove its funding – and surprise surprise, suddenly the BBC is pro-government and utterly biased. Democracy can only function with an effective media sector which holds the government to account, and the BBC used to be the predominant leader in that respect. But the Government bullied them to the point that they are now simply a propaganda mouthpiece rather than genuine journalists. Just how democratic is that?

    I could go on and give similar stories about how disproportionate election funding distorts elections, or how gerrymandering with the electoral boundaries will give the Conservatives 60 extra seats and turn Britain into a single party state, or about the Home Office’s hostile environment trampling over people’s rights, or the disproportionate impact of austerity on those at the bottom of society whilst those at the top get massive tax cuts, or how a handful of ultra-rich Conservative Party donors dictate Conservative Party policies or how the Conservative Party turned democracy on its head and rather than protecting citizens from the ravages of the capitalist house builders it instead allowed them to write the laws to suit themselves and rip off the population with obscene profits and shoddy quality and crazy leases which made properties worthless once they had been bought.

    And all this without a single mention of how undemocratic the whole Brexit shambles has been.

    Conservatives – for the few few, not the many many.


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