Last week, the SKWAWKBOX covered the note from the housing system of Sandwell Borough Council (SBC) in the West Midlands that claimed councillor and close Tom Watson ally Simon Hackett had been ‘involved’ in a decision to award a council house to . a particular tenant without the usual ‘bidding’ process.
The house is in Hackett’s ward, which would make such involvement – if the note is accurate – a potential breach of local government laws that prevent councillors being involved in housing allocation decisions in their own ward.
In spite of reminders, neither Hackett nor the council responded prior to publication. After publication, a lawyer from the council insisted that the council’s internal investigation had exonerated Hackett.
Hackett also features in a lawsuit against the council over the release of a minor’s data, which the Information Commissioner (ICO) confirmed was a breach of the Data Protection Act.
The council first decided there had been a breach but then mysteriously decided there had not. But the ICO’s verdict was unequivocal.
The council’s response insisting Mr Hackett had been exonerated raised further questions, which the SKWAWKBOX put last Friday to the council’s lawyer who sent it:
- please provide a copy of the report that exonerated Mr Hackett – the investigation was conducted with public money and there is an obvious public interest, so there should be no issues at all in providing it
- the ICO confirmed that the council initially found Mr Hackett had committed a data breach but later ‘rescinded’ this. Who made the original finding and why was it overturned?
- Ms __________ was not on the waiting list for a property and was already a council tenant in adequate accommodation. Please clarify why she was even considered for the new property
(emphases added for this article)
There was also a fourth question that has not been reproduced for privacy reasons.
In spite of a reminder to the council today with an alert that an article would be published imminently, no response has been received – not even a request for more time.
Sandwell council has been the subject of so many complaints that it has now issued a warning that it may take action against those it considers to be making too many, claiming that these can be abusive – and it has been accused of serious failings of transparency.
So far, there has been no sign of transparency in response to the reasonable questions outlined above.
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