On February 4th 2011 Object 2011 CQ1 had the closest encounter with Worthing of a natural object in recent years missing Earth by 11,900 km – the distance from Worthing to Indonesia. Object 2011 CQ1 is an asteroid.
Impact from asteroids sufficiently concerned a Worthing resident last year to put in a detailed Freedom of Information (FOI) request to Worthing Borough Council on how they were prepared for such an event.
The answer was quite terse: ‘Worthing Borough Council have an emergency plan which is aimed at fire and bomb procedures and evacuations.” It only partly addressed the detailed question which included a line about costings.
The FOI request was named by the Local Government Association as one of the top ten whacky requests in 2013 to local authorities. Perhaps not in the same league as the request to Wigan Council asking what plans they had to protect the town from a dragon attack. At least asteroids exist.
What also exists is blue-green algae in Brooklands Lake which was confirmed by the Environment Agency in July when visitors were advised to avoid contact with the water. In October 2013 Worthing resident John Clark raised a number of points about the presence of the algae in his FOI request but again Mr Clark only received a partially successful response.
Councils often see FOI requests as an irritation and do not answer to the last possible moment or ask for further clarification. But there is often a genuine desire by residents as was shown by Mr Clark in seeking a solution to an outstanding problem – they deserve a full dialogue. Maybe the warning about avoiding contact itself could have been avoided.
Worthing Daily Editor Alan Rice (in common with other journalists) has put in FOI requests to local authorities – the most of recent of which almost reached the deadline of 20 days before Worthing asked for further clarification. Again the request concerned costings – this time about the cheap parking trial in Worthing’s multi-storey car parks. None of the questions were answered and we will now have to wait another 20 days. Like residents we find it very frustrating.
The FOI act was brought into make councils and other public bodies more transparent and Worthing Daily applauds that objective. Let’s hope our local authorities do all they can to meet that objective and not hide behind legal niceties. Worthing deserves better.