Thursday, 24 March 2011

The case of the secret hog's pudding

Today's West Briton carries an update on the story of the gifts and hospitality offered to officers at Cornwall Council. The key issue is not so much the type of things that have been given (or refused) but the fact that the Council tried to keep them a secret in the first place.

I'm not surprised that our officers get given boxes of chocolate (or even hog's pudding) and it's hardly a shock that our Chief Executive is taken out to dinner by various companies. In fact, I think it is a very positive thing that this happens. After all, it's not as if there are Rolex watches or luxury cars that are changing hands and a council chief executive should be out there meeting companies and key organisations.

But the key is not the dinners or the chocolates. It is that these things should be open and above board so that everyone knows what they are. I am grateful to the Information Commissioner for ruling that Cornwall Council should have to make this information public (and to the West Briton for looking at the issue in the first place), but it shouldn't need a ruling to convince the Council that it is their interests as much as the public's that this sort of information should be freely available. I hope that Transparency Champion Cllr Bob Egerton (who is only just in his role and cannot be blamed for this at all) can encourage a different attitude from the Council in the future.

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