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Unitary struggles with members' and officers' 'illegitimate' FoI requests

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Slough BC councillors and officers have been bombarding staff with unreasonable numbers of Freedom of Information Act requests, the council’s audit and corporate governance committee has heard.

In a report on implementing a governance review called for by the council, the committee was told there had been “a significant increase in requests being submitted to the council by members, officers and former officers” under freedom of information and data protection legislation, which placed “a considerable administrative strain upon the council.”

It went on to say that senior managers felt this practice was “an illegitimate and distractive tactical ploy in connection with perceived grievances with the councillor, individual officers and/or designed to try and cause undue embarrassment and to side step the requirements relating to members’ right to information”.

The review is to examine Slough’s constitution, the process for appointing a head of paid service, members’ access to information and “the culture of behaviours by members and officers and how to promote desired behaviours and to imbed [sic] them”.

Roger Parkin was the recommended candidate for chief executive last November but was not accepted by the council and leader Sohail Munawar (Lab) was replaced by James Swindlehurst (Lab).

Cllr Munawar, despite having been suspended by Labour at the time, then ordered a review of the appointment process.

Consultant Jackie Alexander, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, concluded the council’s work with recruitment firm Penna “was a standard process for this level of recruitment and all reports are written in a clear fashion”.

Former Hammersmith & Fulham LBC chief executive Nigel Pallace was last month appointed as Slough’s interim chief for six months.

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