Raod sign "FACT!"As any habitué of the internet knows, the way to distinguish truth from opinion, assertion or just plain fantasy is to use BLOCK CAPITALS in conjunction with the word “FACT” (which should, ideally, be given its own sentence).

My current parking-sign themed debate with the Council is strong on assertion, but short on facts. At this stage I’m not too sure whether I’m more frustrated by the absence of facts or the fact that none of the politicians or officers involved sees the desirability of making decisions based on evidence and having evidence based on facts.

Somebody says there’s a problem. FACT! Nobody has broken any rules. FACT! Because there aren’t any rules. FACT!

 ‘NOW, what I want is, Facts.’ (Charles Dickens, Hard Times)

Time to gather a few facts of my own. Things like, are there any rules? If so, what are they? If not, why not? What’s to stop politicians using money to court popularity? What safeguards are there to protect politicians from being accused of trying to court popularity? Yes, what’s needed are facts. Time for a Freedom of Information request. FACT!

See below for the text of my most recent email.

 “Thank you for [your response to my formal complaint].

It was perfectly proper for Cllr [X] to pursue the concerns raised by the resident who initially contacted him. However, as a council tax payer, I have the right to expect reasonable steps to be taken to establish that the problem complained of exists and, if so, whether the proposed solution is likely to solve it.

Engraving of a 1863 edition of Hard Times (Dic...

“… and now the swimming pool’s sunk without trace” (Engraving of a 1863 edition of Hard Times (Dickens) (Photo credit: Wikipedia))

The fact remains that the only “evidence” of a problem is either a complaint from a single resident (Cllr [X]’s statement to me, 13th Nov 2013) or concerns from “some residents” (Cllr [X]’s statement to you). There is no history of complaints, the complainant has not been asked to supply a record of occasions on which the problem occurred or (simplest of all) photographs documenting the alleged problem and the connection with the swimming pool seems to have sunk without trace.

For the record, I am not campaigning for the removal of the sign – that would just be a further misuse of public money.

However, I remain concerned about the general point highlighted by this case, which is that councillors can spend public money without any apparent safeguards to ensure that there is some sort of evidence-based case to support the expenditure. I should, therefore, be grateful if you would let me have the following information:

  1. What is the size of the councillors’ discretionary fund?
  2. What are the rules, guidelines etc. surrounding the use of the fund?
  3. How much has been spent at the discretion of councillors since June 2009?
  4. How much has been spent by each individual councillor?

 Please treat this as a Freedom of Information request.”