How Barnet tried to criminalise all bloggers


9:32 am - November 14th 2011

by Sunny Hundal    


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Tory-run Barnet Council made a complaint against a local blogger that, if set as precedent, could criminalise the work of citizen journalist/bloggers across the country.

The council has already been criticised in the past for trying to restrict local bloggers from reporting on its activities.

It recently went a step further by reporting a blogger critical of its activities to the Information Commissioner, arguing it had to register as a Data Controller in order to carry on monitoring its activities.

Derek Dishman writes at the Mr Mustard blog on issues relating to Barnet Council.

He regularly makes FOI requests and recently discovered the council had appointed ‘change and innovation manager’, Jonathan Tunde-Wright, for around £50,000 a year. The job description included phrases like “delivery of system thinking interventions”, was ridiculed here.

As a result the Council complained to the Information Commissioner that he had broken the law (worth a £5000 fine) because he had “processed personal data unfairly” and had no protection under the Data Protection Act.

The Information Commissioner rejected that. So Barnet Council came up with another wheeze

Journalist David Hencke, who uncovered the story, explains what happened next:

Initially rebuffed the council then came up with an extraordinary description of what Mr Dishman was allowed to blog without being forced to register or be prosecuted for unfairly processing data.

According to Barnet the only things bloggers can write about is their own personal data, their own family defined as people related by blood or marriage and their own household, anybody living in their house or flat.

Everything else requires registration and can be subject to legal challenge.

Imagine that! Such a restriction would put this blog out of business.

Thankfully, the Information Commissioner rejected that definition by Barnet Council too.

David Hencke adds:

If Barnet had succeeded it would have had enormous implications and costs for bloggers across the country. As Conservatives who are committed to transparency, the council should know better. They need to put up and shut up!

Barnet Council did not respond to him for any requests for a comment. So much for Conservative dedication to transparency… and not wasting money!

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Could Barnet Council please get back to their REAL job?

Sunny – Good article.

Contrast that with council’s liking to snoop through our rubbish to check if we have binned it ‘correctly’, in the process gathering as much of our personal data as they fancy.

And don’t get me onto their cheek of charging motorists to park outside their homes or charging for visitors whilst pretending it has something to do with ‘congestion’ or road safety.

3. the a&e charge nurse

How bizarre, uber-tories acting just like soviets?
Either way bully boys are the pits, irrespective of what political stripe they are.

For all their talk, the Tories don’t like free speech much…or democracy, come to think of it.

While obviously a rather egregious example, you should probably have noted that similar attitudes permeate local government across the country – regardless of which party runs the council.

Greenwich is quite notorious in this regard.

I’ll look forward to your report on how the Labour run council is trying to stomp on independent coverage of its increasingly bizarre antics.

Tories completely ignorant of the modern world? surely not. I guess they haven’t heard of the Streisand effect either – without them I’d have never heard of this blog.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect

This is blatant harrassment – they know full well they are talking out of their backsides. Pathetic.

Perhaps this is how they ‘think’ the world should operate? In which case they are quite seriously mad.

Barnet bloggers are clearly doing far too good a job there.

FTW!

As the Barnet blogger who submitted the FoI which revealed this and who broke the story, I’m sad to say that none of this is a surprise. Barnet Council at times appears like the mafia. In March, Barnet bloggers revealed that they were using a private security force with no SIA accreditation, with no contract and which were in liquadation due to unpaid taxes. This force had secretly spied on bloggers and residents. Whilst bloggers were trying to get to the bottom of the scandal, Barnet Council were writing to the SIA trying to silence the bloggers. The resulting audit highlighted all manner of irregularities. Barnet bloggers jointly issued this response to the attack on us by Barnet last monday – http://barneteye.blogspot.com/2011/11/barnet-council-on-brink-open-letter-to.html – This text was carried on all Barnet blogs. The full text of the FOI & Barnet Councils response to my enquiry is published on the Barnet Future Shape blog, which is a document repository used for sharing documents, administered by all Barnet bloggers – http://barnetfutureshape.blogspot.com/2011/11/barnet-council-foi-response-reveals.html – with minimal comment. Quite shocking when you read it
Rog T
http://www.barneteye.blogspot.com

Well I am not surprised given that Barnet Council features the odious Brian Coleman (that’s about the best that can be said about him) and the bizarre and humourless Brian Gordon.

To be fair it was actually Rog T of the Barnet Eye who broke this story not David Hencke. It was Rog’s FOI that revealed what Barnet Council had been up to. I appreciate the publicity David Hencke has brought to this story but credit where credit’s due please.

12. blackwillow1

Perhaps it’s a cunning ploy by Barnet to discourage people from moving there. Or perhaps it’s just another example of the way that power goes to the heads of those in authority, convinced that being elected to public office means that they know best. Getting elected is one thing, proving the result to be the right one is the task they face. Barnet, or any other local authority for that matter, need to remember that the voters have the final say, regarding how well they feel the job is done. Come election time, dictatorial behaviour such as this will have considerable influence on the way people vote. Remember councillors, you serve the people.

…no doubt the tax payers alliance are vocal on this issue? eh what? nothing to say, but I thought they exposed council waste of resources.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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  99. Sian

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  100. Nadine Deragon

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