• Hospitality register now uploaded to EDDC’s website … blank

    8th May 2012 | News | Claire
  • I had been watching out for it since the end of April, following Communications Portfolioholder, Cllr Ian Thomas’s message to tell me that its publication had been slightly delayed because of technical issues.

    But imagine my disappointment when I opened the page hopefully … only to find the following text: 

    “No register entries have been received since 2 April 2012.

    “Entries prior to 2 April 2012 are recorded in paper form and can be viewed by appointment at the Council Offices, Sidmouth – please telephone Democratic Services on 01395 517546.”

    My enquiries to Cllr Thomas (who I tend to regard as a good egg) has got me nowhere.

    Cllr Thomas says this was always the agreement from his answer to my question at full council a few months ago.  My understanding, however (and I believe most other people’s) was that the data from May 2011 would be uploaded, which was when the new council was formed.  It would also be consistent with the recent publication of the register of interests, which contains information from this date.

    We have exchanged several emails and Cllr Thomas has told me that he doesn’t believe that the cost in making such information public is justifiable.  He said:  “The information is publicly available and openly accessible, that availability is itself publicised – the issue could only be whether or not it is prudent for a financially astute council to prioritise spending on peripheral channel duplication. This is likely to yield little or no value for our stakeholders.”

    I would be willing to make a bet that many residents in East Devon would think that putting this information online WAS a good use of public money.  And I pointed out that this argument was a bit rich when EDDC is making plans for the appointment of a £42,000 a year Reputation Manager!

    Of course the information dating back to May 2011 IS available to the public currently, but one has to make an appointment to view it (as it states above).

    It seems to me that EDDC has got its priorities wrong.  It doesn’t feel like a peripheral issue as Cllr Thomas believes, it feels like a central issue (widely debated) of EDDC needing to become more transparent and more accountable to local people who pay for its existence.

    And thinking about it I hope that the archaic sign in the council chamber forbidding tape recordings filming or photos of meetings, is thrown in the bin very soon!  DCC webcast their major meetings and then archive them all!

    But maybe I am wrong and Cllr Thomas is right? 

    Perhaps local people do think that backdating the hospitality and gifts register by a year would be a waste of public money for a short-staffed IT team?

    I would be interested in your views.

    The link to the relevant page is below:

    http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/members_gifts_hospitality_received.htm