Manchester City Council has been forced to do admit that it released “inaccurate” information about the carbon literacy status of its communications staff.
The shocking admission comes after Manchester Climate Monthly requested an internal review of an earlier response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
The release of inaccurate information by the Council about the status of its own staff raises questions of whether citizens should trust anything the Council says. It also is a timely reminder that when citizens receive replies to Freedom of Information Act requests, they should read the replies they get very carefully and see what attempts are being made by the Council to wiggle and weasel.
On October 1st 2021 MCFly send a Freedom of Information Act request to the Council. It included the question
“Have the comms team received their carbon literacy training?”
Carbon literacy training is a day long training that is supposed to equip those who receive it to take action. The Council promised in 2009 that everyone who lived, worked or studied in Manchester would receive the training by the end of 2013. This did not happen. (1)
The Council responded on 18th October
“In-house Carbon Literacy training is a mandatory 3-part training module for all Council Staff. The full training programme has been completed by the majority of members of the communications team with the rest of the team either enrolled or partway through the programme.” (emphasis added).
MCFLy smelt a rat, and requested additional clarification, trying to avoid an internal review. But the Council did not reply or even acknowledge the request, so an internal review was requested.
Part of the reply reads as follows.
As part of this internal review, I have reviewed the information held regarding carbon
literacy training and I can confirm the following information:
For the purposes of this internal review, we have considered 50 members of the
Communications Team – Content and Strategy.
11 of them have completed the full training and are certified.
39 are yet to complete the full training.
The training is in two parts (plus an additional part being a film to watch before part 1
of the course), it is not possible for us to access numbers of people who have
completed only part 1.
However we have 28 members of staff who are currently booked to
complete the course in the next month, it is at this point that staff numbers
are recorded, once they are certified.
Newer members of staff are yet to start the course are on the waiting list as training
dates are released and become available.
So, 50 staff. Only 11 of them are fully carbon literate. But in response to my 1st October question about the carbon literacy of comms staff, the Council had claimed “The full training programme has been completed by the majority of members of the communications team.”
MCFly will be making an official complaint to the Council about the original misleading information. Who drafted it? Who signed off on it? Who is ultimately responsible? It will also be alerting the Information Commissioner to the City Council’s egregious behaviour.
[UPDATE – actually, remain very keen to avoid complaint, especially since there was an apology. Therefore have written this. Am holding off on complaint to Information Commissioner, for now.]
Citizens need to be very very careful at taking ANYTHING the Council says at face value.
Citizens need to learn how to write Freedom of Information Act requests, how to read the answers closely, how to use the internal review system and how to go to the Information Commissioner.
Manchester Climate Monthly cannot, for reasons of biographical availability, assist with this. If you give a damn, please, I implore you, contact the folks over at Climate Emergency Manchester, on firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) The Council has also also repeatedly set deadlines for all its elected members and staff to undergo the training. It never hits these deadlines, but then moves them.