In Bath we live in a world heritage city. But have we got a world-class local authority?
People moan a lot about Bath & North-East Somerset District Council, about mediocrity and arbitrary decisions. Protest is growing: one Friend staked out the Twerton public loos to prevent their closure (see national press) and is now campaigning against Citizens’ Advice Bureau funding cuts.
But all councils face growing demand for services and budget constraints, and the challenges of running a uniquely beautiful city made out of crumbling stone must be, well, uniquely challenging.
I’m curious to check out some specific complaints, and to start to assemble a picture of how rational and responsive the council is on a particular issues.
One tendency I’ve noticed is that people complain about the mediocrity of council actions and then mutter that it’s because they’re all masons. I’ve no idea if this it true or not (presumably not, given that the CEO is a woman) but it begs the question: how does a local authority protect itself from a perception among staff and residents that membership of secret societies affects their judgement and actions? That seems worth one FoI request.
Another Friend is trying to establish a small travellers’ site but is suffers bullying and abuse locally, and appears to get no support from authorities and police. His plans seem well thought out, and consistent with national policy for making civilised arrangements for travellers. But he says B&NES makes no such provisions whatever, despite a legal obligation to do so. That seems worth an FoI request also.
Let’s see if this much maligned FoI process works. MySociety’s Whatdotheyknow.com web site seems excellent, and easy to use. So far I’ve had boilerplate acknowledgement on both requests from the council’s information compliance officer. Let’s see.