Sunday, October 26, 2008

Top Tory wants to restrict freedom

In an unusually move Paul Carter Kent's senior Tory politician and the leader of Kent Council, has made a remarkable call for restrictions to the freedom of information act after earlier complaining about building rules and regulations.

Those who have followed the goings on of Kent Council, must often like me find themselves bemused at some of the enterprises Kent Council gets involved with, which are frequently notable inasmuch as they fall outside, the services you would expect of a local authority, for instance Kent TV, temporary employment agencies, bus and taxi services, health advice line, and this, which is something which I had forgotten about for a while, Oakwood House, the 37 bedroom hotel situated in Maidstone run by the blooming KCC .

Now since Paul Carter happens to be a Tory, you might think, how enterprising a conservative council, running businesses, which would be fair enough, if it weren't for the fact, that the taxpayer who probably subsidies these businesses, isn't able to see all the facts pertaining to them, nor can hard working business entrepreneurs, who risk there own money.

Paul Carter apparently cites business confidentiality as a reason for not disclosing full information about council owned businesses, but here is the reason he's wrong, in a fair market businesses shouldn't be subsidized by taxpayers, which because of Kent's secrecy we are unable to determine whether for instance business premises are cheaper than those commercially available thus giving council run business is an unfair advantage.

Assuming Kent Council are actually are running these businesses in a commercially proper manner, it seems nothing short of outrageous, that Kent Council who are under the leadership of Paul Carter, should wish to ignore freedom of interest inquiries and push presumably for legislation to stop us the taxpayer knowing what's going on.

As far as I'm aware, normal commercial businesses are required to publish accounts, so exactly what does Kent Council have to hide? Here's two possible answers ruthless efficiency or gross incompetence the truth is probably something in between, but if Paul Carter gets his way, we will never know. For me Kent council is like on of those loony London councils from the eighties, just what are they thinking!

PS Paul Carter also mentions in the Kent on Sunday newspaper, how he believes business is being stifled by rules and regulations, not surprisingly he makes no comment, how he would feel if he were having compete with companies subsidise by the taxpayer. I always thought Thanet had a lot of front with 26 miles of beaches but its nothing compared to Kents Tories!


  1. Tony you may have missed this in on the 19th:

    "Two public watchdogs are probing Kent County Council’s controversial commercial activities.

    The Audit Commission and Information Commissioner are scrutinising KCC’s commercial services department and private firms it runs.

    Businesses and opposition councillors claim KCC’s companies, such as Kent Top Travel, which provides bus and taxi services, have an unfair advantage because the council charges them lower rent, overheads and loan terms.

    Two Kent-based businesses complained to the Audit Commission, the independent public spending watchdog, about bids made for transport contracts and the rates charged by KCC for the supply of temporary staff from its Kent Top Temps firm.

    The commission is looking to see if there is any evidence of ‘cross-subsidisation’ between KCC and its commercial operations. It will also investigate whether, “KCC is providing other forms of support such as by not charging for accommodation occupied by commercial operations,” a memo seen by Kent on Sunday reveals.

    Its review is taking place this month and a report is due in November.

    At the same time, Information Commissioner Richard Thomas has said he will examine whether KCC was right to refuse to publish information requested about its trading companies on the grounds of “commercial confidentiality”.

    Mr Thomas enforces the Freedom of Information Act and his investigation follows complaints from a Kent resident"

    And this was in Kent Messenger last week :
    "Kent County Council has been forced to release more details about the funding of Kent TV, its £1.4million internet-based TV station following a ruling by a Freedom of Information watchdog.

    The ruling follows a successful challenge by the KM Group, which has been engaged in a long-running dispute with the county council over its refusal to disclose information about a feasibility study for Kent TV."

    article continues with "The information now released reveals that at the time KCC was considering setting up Kent TV, it had considered whether to establish it as a stand-alone digital TV station broadcast on Sky. It also reveals the yearly running costs could be as much as £695,000 a year - nearly £200,000 more than it has actually set aside"

    Us retire folk have loads of time to go through the news!

  2. The story about KCC wanting its companies to be exempt from Freedom of Information legislation was first broken by the Kent Messenger Group. Its political editor posted the story online last week and it appeared in the KM on Friday.