Something to look forward to: Our Chief Minister is to report back to Tynwald on the topic of Freedom of Information. I’m sure we all feel that accessing information about how our money is spent is essential. However, Mr Bell referred to cost issues when the introduction of an FOI was mentioned in Tynwald. He suggested that it appeared to be a costly venture for the Channel Islands and left us with the impression that should the implementation of the act cost millions, it would not be feasible in the current financial climate.
Perhaps he has a point. After all, having been starved of information for so long there could well be a public stampede to obtain information from the FOI department. But I doubt it. In order to assess the implications of the costs accurately we need to look at costs of surveillance island-wide over the last few years in comparison. It is clear that very few query the cost of CCTV (notable exception Councillor Richard Kissack) and surveillance equipment. CCTV always seems to be a priority and costs don’t really appear to be an obstacle. Yet after many years of dilly-dallying the subject of FOI was introduced at the very last minute in the last term of government, thus proving that the promise had been upheld while also making it impossible to pass legislation at that late stage.
When FOI was mentioned in the autumn the reference to possible prohibitive costs prevented the topic from being further pursued until the projected outlay could be assessed. Now amid cost-slashing measures, redundancies and reduced services it would be particularly easy to dismiss this as an unaffordable luxury. However, many see this as a necessity, not a luxury. How can we possibly know how our money is being spent if there is no insight into the processes and outgoings of government. If, for instance, huge sums are being spent on spying on the general public in everyday life we need to why know this is.
It appears to be another case of double standards. No expense spared on surveillance but cost becomes the prime issue when the public would like to see what government is up to. We would of course need to be able to verify the projected costs to ascertain how accurately the sums have been done. Can we do that without an FOI? Whatever the outcome one thing is certain: We can’t afford any further surveillance of the general public. When FOI is being queried, we simply can’t afford any further snooping. Sorry guys – the CCTV business is a no-no now.
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