The two widely
differing faces of public accountability

Have your say

Taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent.

Public sector organisations such as the police and councils spend billions of pounds of our money each year so we, quite justifiably, expect them to be accountable to us.

To use one of the words of the moment – we want their dealings to be transparent.

Which is far from what Hampshire Constabulary has been.

The News submitted a Freedom of Information request to the force asking for a detailed breakdown of the number of officers required to work on the annual Wickham Horse Fair in May.

We also wanted to know where they had come from, how much time they spent working at the three-day event and exactly how much it all cost. A perfectly reasonable request in our view.

The force refused, claiming precise figures might affect public safety at future fairs. Exactly how that would be the case it did not clarify. So we are left scratching our heads, probably like you.

What we did manage to extract from the police was that a staggering 176 officers from all over the county were used for the fair which this year, unlike some others, passed peacefully.

There will be those who say that enormous police presence thwarted trouble. Others, The News among them, are left wondering what impact moving such a number of officers from other parts of Hampshire to Wickham had on crime elsewhere.

Meanwhile, from one organisation which, on this issue, has been opaque, we move to Portsmouth City Council leader Councillor Donna Jones, who has perhaps been too enthusiastically transparent.

In the Civic Offices work on finding the next tranche of budget cuts has begun. We’re looking at £11m. Books are being scrutinised as an overture to the blood-letting which will undoubtedly come.

But surely the Conservative leader has jumped the gun? Budgets will not be finalised until next spring yet already Cllr Jones is talking about shedding more than 100 jobs.

She believes it would be better to axe these posts than close museums, care homes or libraries denying people the services they crave.

But as Unite union convenor Richard White quite correctly says, how on earth do you maintain services without the right number of staff?

Of course, closing services such as these will grab headlines – headlines people remember when next they cast their vote.

So perhaps this form of transparency is crystal clear.