Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Martin Wise Cabinet Member for Thanet District Council’s press department on the new press department rules.


Martin Wise Cabinet Member for Thanet District Council’s press department. 

I have done my best with the picture, in the circumstances I didn’t want to use one from the council’s website as I don’t want to get in to trouble for breach of copyright and understand that asking to use their picture could take a month before they answer.

I asked martin for his position on the chanced press department policy and he was courteous enough to reply for publication here it is.

Michael,

It is not the sending out of information by E-mail to bloggers, it is
the flood of requests that follow for each one that is the problem. If
you multiply your own enquiries by the number that come from other
bloggers, and the media, then you will see that the number of requests
become unmanageable for the resource available.

Like it or not we are living in changed times and have to face many new
realities, and so we will cut the cloth according to what we can afford.
We cannot afford to give instantaneous response to every request for
information, but I am content that there are sufficient channels
available for the public to get the information they need about the
Council and its activites without the press officer being constantly
on-call to every individul seeking information.

Whilst I acknowledge that your blogs receive a large number of hits each
day, and do provide much useful historical information that is both
enlightening and interesting, I am not sure that it is the thirst for
factual information that drives most people to them. From observation (I
check out Thanet on Line several times a day), and without wishing to be
controversial, I would suggest that many of your readers are more
interested in tittle tattle or their own desire to rubbish the Council
at every opportunity. Even you must agree that Bash the Council is a
popular sport round these parts?

Whether you or your readers accept the point, it is my view that the
vast majority of Council officers and members are trying to do a good
job and for the most part are succeeding, despite the best efforts of
some to rubbish their activities. As for the Cabinet, we are as intent
on identifying areas of weakness and working with officers to deliver
improvement. As well as the huge day to day responsibilities of each of
the services we are acutely aware that each have a number of long
running issues that must be resolved if Thanet is to provide the jobs
and future prosperity that our residents (young people particularly),
deserve. Our focus is therefore to identify these and then ensure that
do what is necessary to get a result.

I am happy for you to publish any of this that you wish.

Regards,

Martin.

I also asked the council’s press department what the new situation is, but they haven’t replied to me.

Finally I put in a foi request asking them what their new policy is about, I would say that in terms of Thanet District Council information my press release blog and this blog are the two main sources, apart from the council’s own websites. I think I have asked the council’s press department about ten questions this year so I was surprised to be boycotted in this way.

In the foi request I have written I have tried to cover all of the angles, the difficulty here is that the council may take up to a month to reply, so one has to try to cover all everything. The problem from my point of view is that I don’t really understand their motives, here is the link to the request http://www.thanetonline.com/tdcfoi/

I have suspended my press release blog, although once I have discovered what the council’s criteria is for being an accredited news source I may be able to fulfil it and reinstate that blog.

I will add to this if I get more time.        

8 comments:

  1. At least he has manners unlike the other cabinet member who is commenting outside of his remit. He should stick to rubbish and cllr Wise shoulod ask him to take his Tank off of his grass.

    But cllrs Wise's argument does not hold up. If the council is to publish news releases then they would expect them to be read by the widest possible audience and if they are not clear and lack all of the detail then they can expect people to phone up. So the solution is not to restrict publication but for TDC to make sure their release are acurate and contain all the details. Many of the releases are to promote Thanet and a wideswt audience is important.
    cllr Wise might also consider that RSS feed and Twitter will also generate many more calls than a well worded press release.

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  2. I think I would like to know more about the numbers here. TDC has previously argued that it costs too much to answer FOI requests and has argued that they don't have to answer questions from people who they have labelled as vexatious questioners. In other words, TDC has a track-record of coming up with excuses for not communicating with people who are interested in what the Council is doing.

    Of course, the elephant in the room is the elected members. There are over 50 Councillors and many of them do b*gg*r all. If they were engaged in asking these difficult questions on behalf of their constituents, the constituents could put their feet up and have a beer.

    Of course, if the elected Councillors suddenly got active I imagine the officers would have to come up with some reason for not answering their questions either.

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  3. Well there you have it - apparently some tax payers have the temerity to criticise TDC and, therefore, the council does not wish to talk to them any more.

    Neither do they wish to answer questions that arise from their press releases. They could of course seek to improve the the clarity of their releases and anticipate and head off questions.

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  4. With reference to you FOI request, I use the Twitter feed for the TDC press releases and do not have any connection with any news outlet or public readership. There have been a couple of times when high definition photos or plans would have made the press release clearer, but for the majority not necessary.

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  5. So if we all ask elected councillors more questions as a result of this, will we then hear that they can't have more elections because it just encourages the public to question what the council officers are up to?
    I wonder what other councils are doing.

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  6. Why not stop sending out press reases altogether - that would save lots of time?

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  7. With one click of the mouse you can get any information that you require, it is ilegal to be refused.if you are refused or blocked then you must make a formal complaint in writing to TDC.

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