Sunday 23rd June 2024,
North Yorks Enquirer

POTTO’s Public Humiliation (Pt. 1)

August 12, 2023 Potto

POTTO’s Public Humiliation (Pt. 1)

  • – an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, providing a wider readership to a humiliating public exposure of Potto Parish Council’s desperate attempts to conceal its appalling performance.

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Regular readers may recall that, from time to time, I like to peruse the Freedom of Information requests that appear on that excellent website WhatDoTheyKnow.com:

This free service guides requestors through the FOIA process, including advising on when responses are due (within 20 working-days), advising when it may be appropriate to seek an Internal Review (following an unsatisfactory or evasive response), and even on the process of lodging a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office when public authorities appear to be breaking the law. I would heartily recommend WhatDoTheyKnow.com to anyone seeking transparency from ‘the powers that be’.

Experience informs that the rhetorical question “What do they know?” can, more often than not, be revised to “What are they willing to disclose?”.

WhatDoTheyKnow.com also includes in internal private messaging service, facilitating direct (and confidential) correspondence between one requestor and another.

Whilst perusing WhatDoTheyKnow.com requests to Potto Parish Council, I discovered that a growing number of requestors have been attempting to elicit information with very little success. One in particluar (a Mrs Riley A. COOKE) has been attempting to unravel the tangle of misinformation surrounding Potto Parish Council’s handling of FOIA requests.

Mrs COOKE’s correspondence with the Council, starting on 25th April 2023, offers the perfect illustration of the extraordinary lengths some local authorities are prepared to go to to conceal incompetence, disregard for legislation and even defiance of Court orders. All of this is in the public domain. However, as a matter of courtesy, I used the WDTK.com private messaging service to seek Mrs COOKE’s consent to me reproducing her correspondence with Potto Parish Council here on the Enquirer.

Mrs COOKE responded thus:

Without further ado, I present Mrs COOKE’s correspondence with Potto Parish Council here below – and, thereafter, a few comments of my own:

Download the PDF file RAC_FOIA.

For convenience of reference, I set out the following comments in accordance with the chronology of the above – but first, a reminder of Mrs COOKE’s simple request:

9th May 2023: Potto Parish Council’s response #1
Potto Parish Council (i.e. Councillor Andrew WILDE, in his capacity as the Clerk’s father) ADMITS that the Council received Judge McKENNA’s ‘Strike-Out’ of the Council’s ludicrous Appeal which was effectively hoping to support the Council’s desire to conceal documents on 23rd December 2022.
Potto Parish Council also ADMITS that it holds no evidence whatever to show that other Councillors were ever informed about Judge McKENNA’s scathing decision.

12th May 2023: Mrs COOKE’s response #1

Commenting on the totally inadequate (but telling) admissions by Potto Parish Council, Mrs COOKE draws her own conclusions:

6th June 2023: Potto Parish Council’s response #2

Having apparently not recognised that its earlier (9th May) response openly ADMITS that Judge McKENNA’s ‘Strike-Out’ had not been circulated to all Councillors, the Council now proceeds to DENY the validity of External Auditor PKF LITTLEJOHN’s conclusions, as set out in the 17 damning Recommendations of the (July 2022) Public Interest Report (PIR), whilst simultaneouly claiming to have adequately addressed them all. “Now you sees me, now you don’t”.

Surely, this takes self-deception to such heights as to equate with lunacy?

The Council’s bizarre excursion into the land of the Red Queen concludes with the following gem of absurdity:

Quite how Potto Parish Council can have the effrontery to DENY that Mrs COOKE’s conclusions – based solely on Judge McKENNA’s Decision Notice, the PIR and the Council’s own Agendas and Minutes – are accurate simply beggars belief.

Is the Council seriously maintaining that the Judge, the External Auditor and the Council’s own public record documentation are all WRONG?

And, finally, the reference to Mrs COOKE not residing in Potto is pitiful. Every Data Controller in the country knows (or, if not, is not fit for purpose) that a resident of the Outer Hebrides (or even the Falklands) has the right to submit Freedom of Information requests to Potto Parish Council – by email or (ideally) via WhatDoTheyKnow.com (where we can all enjoy the duck shoot).

As to Mrs COOKE “misrepresenting” herself – what can that mean? Has she claimed to be Margaret THATCHER?

By now, we have transcended Alice in Wonderland and passed seamlessly into One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

In my view, it is long overdue that someone should come along and deconstruct the Potto Parish Council madness.

4th August 2023: Mrs COOKE’s response #2

I congratulate Mrs COOKE on her most recent thrust which, in the common parlance “tears the Council a new one”.

I salute you, Mrs COOKE.

If there is anyone left in Potto who still believes the emperor is wearing new clothes, then I look forward to disabusing them of their gullibility – in Part 2.

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