A Letter to the Editor

The Leader of Cornwall Council has decided to send another letter. This time it is to the Editor of the Daily Telegraph, and it is in reference to their article on Credit Card spending. It seems the Leader is still miffed about this article and feels Cornwall Council got slated wrongly, even though the Council supplied the information in the first place. 

Here is the very letter that has been sent to the Daily Telegraph:

When did FOI become Freedom of Misinformation?
20 June 2011
Dear Sir
An article in your paper criticised Cornwall Council for using “credit” cards and for spending council taxpayers’ money on inappropriate items.  Both statements are wrong.
The Council does not use credit cards.  These are purchase cards which save an average £33 per transaction.  Over the past two years we have saved £2.8 million of taxpayers money – the equivalent of employing 70 children’s social workers, running two primary schools, eight leisure centres or 24 average sized Cornish libraries for a year or maintaining our rural road network in Cornwall.  Far from being criticised for being the highest spender, Cornwall deserves praise for being the best in this area.
Your article suggested that Council staff had wasted money eating in Rick Stein’s Seafood restaurant and on lavish Council trips abroad – wrong again.  The payment to Rick Stein was not for a meal – but was part of the Future Jobs Fund project, a Department for Work and Pensions European funded scheme to provide jobs for people in Cornwall.  The much criticised foreign travel related to educational visits involving teachers from schools in Cornwall which were fully funded by the British Council. 
I am also extremely disappointed that you chose to use information you knew to be wrong.  We informed the journalist the day before you published the article that the costs of foreign travel and meals were expressed in local currency and not sterling but you still chose to publish inaccurate information. 
I have been a loyal reader of your paper for more than 30 years and am disappointed you decided to publish misleading information which unfairly  damaged the reputation of local government in general and Cornwall in particular.  Such action does not meet your normal high standards.
I am also concerned that having championed open and transparent government in Cornwall and provided you with our data without trying to hide anything, this has been abused.  Dealing with FOI applications has cost the Council £339,000 over the past two years – money which would be better spent on essential services for the public.  Your action means that we will now have to put additional resources into this process to ensure that the public are protected from such Freedom of Misinformation.
I hope you will now take this opportunity to put the record straight by printing this letter.
Yours sincerely
Alec Robertson
Cornwall Council 

There is however a word of caution and a quote by Mark Twain sums it up: Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel

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