Information Commissioner blasts GCC - and Sid strikes camp at Shire Hall

GCC ordered to release further information

It seems the Information Commissioner's Office is a bit more inclined to take Sid seriously than GCC.  We can't of course prove that Sid's hunger strike actually prompted the resolution of a 12-month-old Freedom of Information case - but we do know that the originator chivvied the ICO along because of it.  Either way, the result is a massive vindication of Sid's action - the council has now been ordered to un-redact and release to the public most of the accountant's report on which the revised contract is based, and last years tribunal ruling has been quoted extensively in the decision notice - in other words "you've been told before - you must release this in the public interest". 

The ICO also clearly states that GCC have breached regulations regarding release of information.

A truly excellent summary of this and of the transparency scandal so far can be found on Tim Davies' blog HERE - and if you've found the whole thing confusing (who hasn't?) then it is essential reading.



Deafening silence from GCC leaders

The silence from the leaders of our own county council, however, has echoed throughout Sid's 12 days. The council's official response to the strike was - highly misleadingly - to tell the press that the incinerator contract was available for all to view.  They omitted to mention that

  • they delayed its release for 2 years at an expense of over £400K (we recently discovered!) to the taxpayer
  • the version they refer to is 5 years out of date
  • the current (revised) contract is still being closely guarded - though the council now has 35 days to release many of the relevant figures due to the ICO's intervention mentioned above.  

The council's ruling cabinet also refused to accept public questions about the incinerator at a meeting on Wednesday, saying they were irrelevant - to an agenda that included a report on air pollution in Gloucestershire (!!!).  They even (see above pic) managed to completely ignore the powerful silent protest which Sid and supporters staged in response, continuing to push through that same agenda as if nothing was going on.

Meanwhile officers of the council astonishingly claimed in writing that all relevant regulations had been followed with regard to Javelin Park...


Striking Camp - onward from Shire Hall

Sid has no plans to stop striking yet. While a transparency victory, albeit partial, is fantastic, Sid is now committed to taking forward the wider issue of how we deal with waste as a society.  He is - amazingly - planning on taking his strike to London next week to bring attention to the need for circular economy and for abolishing single-use plastics.

With this in mind, and in good spirits (if inevitably thinner), Sid will be leaving Shire Hall TODAY Saturday 9th June with a festive farewell - if you're free to join us we'd love to see you there.  David Drew MP will be making a statement in support of Sid following some great music and a ceremony at the Cathedral.

Festive conclusion to Sid's Shire Hall encampment
Day 12 of his "Hungry for Truth" strike:

Saturday 9th June, Shire Hall, Gloucester

1pm Bantaba (African drumming band) 
2pm Stroud Red Band (Brass band)
3pm Procession to the Ceremony: the Blessing of the Carved Spoons at the Cathedral
3.30pm Announcements in Cathedral forecourt with David Drew MP: what has been achieved and where Sid will take the strike from here... 

What a fortnight it's been! 

Sid has weathered it incredibly well, in rain and shine. The encouragement and solidarity he's received from supporters and many, many locals on the street has been both moving and heartwarming, with the overwhelming majority sympathising, understanding and approving his action, while being amazed at his willingness to do this.

As Tim Davies points out in his excellent blog post (link again HERE), this may well be a first - that someone has actually been prepared to go on hunger strike to extract public interest information from a public authority... information that we knew (and both tribunal judge and Information Commissioner have ruled) should have been in the public domain in the first place.

On the subject of informing the public, just in case you missed it: some enterprising soul took it upon themselves to re-purpose several bus stops across Gloucester last week (see pic below)!  Our thanks go out to those responsible, whoever they are - you performed a great public service...

Jojo Mehta