How Accurate Is Merton Council FOI Data?

Short Answer: Terrible.


Long Answer: Really Terrible.  I requested an update to a regular FOI question that has been asked three-times before of Merton Council.

Please provide the number of any enquiries from each elected Member  requesting information on behalf of an individual, or group of individuals, and / or in relation to a council policy

This has been done for 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21 and the latest request was for 2021-22

The initial response came back within the permitted FOI timescales however, it was obviously littered with errors and omissions.

The most obvious mistake was names not recognised as a Merton Council Councilor – It was later discovered that “Piers Allen” was actually a Richmond Councillor standing in the West Twickenham ward for the Liberal Democrats.

There were other Councillor Names missing from the list completely, while some could have asked ZERO questions of officers (No name had 0 against it), so I accepted some of the obvious Councillors who are not very active were not listed as hadn’t asked a question however, there were some that I had no doubt had asked questions and was just missing from the response.

The Merton Council Corporate Governance Officer had actually tried to “recall” the message – a way for some emails to be removed from the recipient account after they had been sent.  We use website, a brilliant service that keeps all the FOI questions and replies in the public domain, so others can use the data.  This not only saves everyone time from not asking/answering the same questions numerous times but also is an honest and transparent solution.

Merton Council generally doesn’t like transparency and openness, it was because Merton Labour stopped the recording of Council Meetings that Merton.TV was originally formed and has now been shedding light on the council for over four years.

The council has a “Recent Freedom of Information requests” page where they claim to list Questions and answers however it hasn’t been updated since September 2021.

After the “recall” message a second response was sent this time removing a single name, this time “Rosena ALLIN-KHAN” an ex-Wandsworth Councillor who had been a Member of Parliament for Tooting since 2016.

After making yet another complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office asking them to uphold another claim against Merton Council for failing to follow legal requirements, Merton Council eventually responded with an updated list.

The response came with the admission “Apologies for the inaccuracies on the first list and the length of time it
has taken to correct it and any inconvenience this has caused.”

Yet the new list provide included obvious mistakes such as placing Trinty Ward Councillor James Holmes in Cannon Hill.  I am unable to confirm if the numbers are correct, they look a lot closer than I expected but with only 22% of the numbers remaining the same from the first list supplied to the newer “corrected” list. It’s clear there are serious doubts with everything Merton Council produce.