The previous LW post about the secondary school to be built on the London Dock site has generated a lot of interest on Facebook and quite a bit of anger and frustration on Twitter. The interest in a new secondary school in Wapping is as understandable as the annoyance both residents and elected representatives have encountered when trying to find out any information about the school.
“Oh really?! Nobody has told me anything about it!” was one (very restrained) comment by @WappingConservatives in response to the London Dock school story.
LW has been trying for months to find out what is going on with the school site and despite being quite good at rooting things out have found it incredibly difficult to get any good information on the subject.
At times we have wondered if it was a secret that a secondary school was being built. Maybe it is? A surprising number of parents in Wapping were completely unaware of it.
Research it, write it, bin it, start again
The news story we wrote yesterday was not the first version. Originally we were going to publish a story ranting yet again about the Council not being open, not in any way transparent and to be honest not much bleedin’ use when it comes to telling people what is going on.
At the last minute we were told what the situation with London Dock school actually is and so published that story, not the rant. It seems many people have found this useful which is good because that is what we do.
Point is it should not be so incredibly difficult.
Our original ranting story consumed around 14 hours of research and writing time. Then we binned it.
The proper story, based on good information, took about 20 minutes.
The reasons for Tower Hamlets Council still being a black box when it comes to information are various.
Firstly there is the culture of secrecy that seems endemic in local government.
Secondly the main channel the Council distributes information is the website. Which is not fit for purpose. And that is being polite. It sucks. Really, really, really sucks.
This relates directly to the third reason – the lack of any local newspapers in the Borough. (If there was decent press coverage in Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman would never have got away with what he did.) Lacking a decent digital presence and no local press means the Council press office is usually talking to itself.
The fourth and final reason has to be some problem with the current Labour administration. We do not know what that is. There is no doubt as to the good intent of those elected to power (ignoring any party political niggles for the moment) but the explaining of what is going on inside the Town Hall is fundamentally flawed.
Council officers have to take a lot of responsibility for this. As previously stated LW has always found that the council officers we have dealt with have been extremely professional and only to eager to help with issues such as planning decisions, getting lights fixed in Wapping Woods or volunteering events.
So if our random unrepresentative sample of Council interactions is (a) good intent at the top and (b) excellent people delivering services in the Borough on the ground the only logical conclusion is that the Council system in between is broken.
Corrupting the very fabric of the Council administration
This is the direct fault of the previous corruptly elected Tower Hamlets First (THF) administration. Not only did they use Council money as their own free source of “treats” for their political mates, in many cases THF corrupted the very fabric of the Council administration.
A lot of this was down to not very bright people (THF)
being given corruptly obtaining a job way above their pay grade.
In turn a lot of their not very bright mates got to do whatever the hell they liked with their new local government toy, criminally ignorant of its purpose.
So when the result of corrupt Mayoral election of 2014 was replaced with the result of the reasonably democratic Mayoral election of 2015 (thanks electoral petitioners!) the main man, Mr Biggs, was given something of a poisoned chalice. And no choice as to taking a big gulp.
But then if he can’t take a joke he shouldn’t have joined, should he?
It is broke – so better fix it
All of this is a very long winded way of saying that whatever the Biggs administration tries to do we should remember that the very mechanism that delivers the services is to a certain extent broken.
The activities of Rahman’s Youth Services which have emerged recently are not an isolated case of malfeasance exacerbated by a lack of management control under Rahman. (And there is much more on Youth Services to come. Much more.)
So it should be no real surprise that discovering the facts about fundamental issues such as the London Dock school is such a difficult task for everyone.
Problem is that this needs fixing and pretty quickly. Radical action is now needed, enough time has been given to the normal approach. This is Tower Hamlets after all.
Note: The above criticism should probably be more constructive than it is.