Thursday, 21 January 2010
Barnet fought the law, and the law won
Following a complaint from Hendon’s Labour MP Andrew Dismore, the Information Commissioner has ruled that it was “unlikely” Barnet Council had complied with the Data Protection Act in passing information to Mr Dismore’s Conservative opponent Matthew Offord.
This is not the first occasion that the council has breached the Act. Last year, Don’t Call Me Dave complained to the Commissioner when former leader Mike Freer made a demonstrably untrue allegation about Freedom of Information requests. The Commissioner ruled that the publication of DCMD’s details without permission was a breach of the Act.
He told DCMD that the council had given an undertaking not to repeat the breach. Perhaps now the Information Commissioner will realise that the council’s word is simply not to be trusted.
When it comes to breaking the law, Barnet does have form. Only recently, the High Court ruled that Lynne Hillan’s proposals to axe the warden service were unlawful. Most famously, the council’s decision to sell Underhill stadium in 2002 was ruled unlawful as it did not comply with s.123 Local Government Act 1972.
Is it any wonder that Barnet has such a problem acting lawfully? The Borough Solicitor who was required to approve the terms of the Underhill sale (and, indeed, signed the contract on behalf of the Borough) was not dismissed from his position but promoted to Head of Corporate Governance. That taught him a lesson!