While serving in opposition, the shadow Housing minister, Grant Shapps, promised Tory backing for people who built their own homes to kick-start a house building “revolution” in the UK.Hurrah! Encouraging people to build and invest, making money flow about the economy and ending the recession! Not a bad idea, for Tories. But wait ...
Two years later in Government, he launched an action plan to double the number of self-build homes within a decade.
But when Labour attempted to find out how the Government was getting on with its pledge, senior officials in the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) attempted to prevent the release of statistics showing how many self-build homes had been started.
Bizarrely, they tried to claim that they could not provide the information because to do so would “prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs”.
“Officials and Ministers need a safe space in which they can offer free and frank advice and exchange [of] views,” they wrote.
“It is reasonable to acknowledge that data from a variety of sources will form an important part of this essential process and therefore should have the same degree of protection as other information.
“If this data was made available at a premature stage it would result in weaker discussions, poorer decision-making and the closure of policy options.”Shy Tories, hiding their light under a bushel! Fortunately, the shadow Housing minister, Hilary Benn decided the Tories should not be cheated of the credit they were due for pursuing good policy with dogged determination, and for helping ever increasing numbers of people achieve the Tory ideal of home ownership. So he told the Information commissioner that the Tories were too coy to reveal their excellence to the world.
In his ruling, seen by The Independent, the Commissioner roundly rejected the argument put forward by DCLG officials and demanded that the information be released.
“The exemptions cited by DCLG require more than the possible inconvenience in responding to queries about disclosures,” he wrote scathingly.
“The Commissioner considers that DCLG has not provided arguments which demonstrate that disclosure would inhibit the free and frank provision of advice or the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation.”
And what did it show? In a short table released to Labour it showed that the number of people who begin self-build homes had fallen since the depths of the recession in 2009 under Labour from 11,800 to 10,400 in 2011.Oh dear. What have we here? Good policy helping people into home ownership? Nope. Blatant abuse of power, with idiots trying to hide their incompetence from scrutiny. By all means be useless. But don't try to hide the fact. And if you are going to try to hide it, do it competently so you don't end up being exposed as incompetent, untrustworthy idiots.
An even better idea - have good policy that works.
Quotes from the Indie.