LAMBETHWATCH –  “WE SENT AN EMAIL TO THE COUNCIL….” (RETURN TO SENDER)

In the wake of Lambeth council’s Freedom of Information team refusing to answer nine FOI questions from us* we sent nine separate emails back to the council’s FOI team asking for internal reviews.

On the first day three of the nine requests for an internal review got through. The other six bounced back with the message: “The response from the remote server was: 550 High probability of spam”

The following day we tried again: Three of the six got through, the other three came back with the same message:  “The response from the remote server was: 550 High probability of spam”

So the following day we tried again. This time two got through – with one bouncing back. Same message. So the next day we tried again – and again the message bounced back.

The one remaining request for an internal review reads as follows:.

At the full meeting of Lambeth council on October 10th 18 Cllr Sonia Winifred said “The implementation of the culture 2020 programme is well advanced and has been highly successful to date”. Please could Lambeth council state how, and in what way, it has been successful.”

So News From Crystal Palace took the remaining request down to Lambeth town hall – with one new hand-delivered FOI question – only to be told Lambeth council were no longer accepting FOI requests delivered by hand and that they had to be posted to a post office box number….in Winchester, Hampshire.

News From Crystal Palace have since had a series of eight emails back from the FOI team saying they stood by their decision not to release the original information.

So today (Friday) EIGHT new appeals involving Lambeth were sent to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Giving the FOI team at Lambeth – to quote one of the ‘reasons’ for refusal – even more “of an ongoing burden to their officers and an even bigger significant distraction of resources” when the ICO contact them.

You couldn’t make it up.

ON A MORE SERIOUS NOTE:

Rightly or wrongly News From Crystal Palace suspects that the eight emails from the Freedom of Information team at Lambeth council refusing to answer ANY of our latest questions was orchestrated by a third party – or parties – and not by any of the actual FOI team themselves.

Our reasons for thinking this?

1: The previous three questions put in by News From Crystal Palace to the FOI team were all answered. In full. And without any need for the tactical delay of an internal review. One of these related to the cost of the ‘Better Streets’ signs which appear being paraded around by Labour councillors on the council’s official ‘Love Lambeth’ website

2: News From Crystal Palace has, since our first FOI questions several years ago, always delivered them by hand. The FOI team have never raised any complaint about this before.

So what has caused the sudden change?

Could it be that someone at Lambeth (officer, councillor, unelected outsider or a mixture of some or all of these) did not want certain questions answered and decreed it would be better to refuse to answer all of them rather than just some?

Or could it be that they don’t want the FOI team answering ANY questions which might cause Lambeth Labour political embarrassment – be it major or minor?

We think we should be told. But trying to get answers from Lambeth council can sometimes be difficult.

News From Crystal Palace has consistently had a problem sending emails to Lambeth town hall – especially to their press office – many of them coming back as “550 high probability of spam”.

But we’ve never had that problem with emails to the FOI team. Until now.

The letter sent to the PO Box in Winchester appears not to have arrived. If it did, we have had no acknowledgment of our request for an internal review on the question above, or for our single fresh FOI request which asks:

Last year People’s Audit Lambeth revealed that sums of more than £16,500 were paid VIA Lambeth council to Lambeth Labour Group Campaign Fund in the first three months of 2018.

Details of this can be found in the news item: RATEPAYERS MONEY INDIRECTLY FUNDING LAMBETH LABOUR……..newsfromcrystalpalace.wordpress.com May 30, 2018

Please state how much money was paid VIA Lambeth council to the Lambeth Labour group campaign fund during the financial year 2017-2018.

I am sure you would accept that there would be major public concern if, as seems probable, ratepayers money was directly or, as appears to be the case in this request  indirectly, funding any political party.

The question, along with the request for an internal review, has now been sent via the WhatDoTheyKnow website and can be found there (please search Lambeth borough council).

In a further twist, it transpires that one of our questions – about the two names on the papers calling a by-election in Coldharbour ward two DAYS after the passing of Cllr Matt Parr – had already been asked….by a Lambeth Labour party member!. His request was also refused – and he has also asked for an internal review.

MEANWHILE ON TWITTER……

Peoples Audit Retweeted John Brace‏ @level80 Dec 5 Replying to @GSwinburn

There was a woman called Gwen, Who made FOI requests now and then, When York saw what they were about, They had a rant and a shout, And wrote, “No, don’t write to us ever again!”

(Note: Two emails from News From Crystal Palace to Lambeth council’s press office this week got through. We have  received a reply on one, we are still waiting on the other – Ed.)

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