I watched a really interesting documentary on Netflix last weekend called “The Great Hack” which explores behind the scenes into the invisible world of manipulation and power, exposing the truth behind the roles of data company Cambridge Analytica and Facebook and how it is believed they were able to influence the last US election where Donald Trump won and in this country controversially the outcome of the Brexit referendum.
In the film, Brittany Kaiser, an ex-employee of Cambridge Analytica, reflects on her involvement and says “it was a convenient story to believe.” Believing at the time she was on the right side, influencing people for all the right reasons and then on reflection, questioning her belief systems that got her to that point.
Whatever your conclusions about the film and the scandal it seeks to expose, it is very thought provoking and raises serious concerns about the integrity of our democratic process, why it is important that we ask questions and not simply believe what we are told, why we should challenge potential abuse of power and hold those given that power accountable for their actions at all levels.
Such concerns are closer to home than most people realise even within our own Local Authority:
CIPFA were asked by the Managing Director of RBWM and s151 Officer to review the governance, approval and management processes in relation to a £350k capital scheme (Clewer and Dedworth Neighbourhood Improvements) approved in the 2018/19 budget. The Managing Director was concerned that the scheme did not appear to meet the Council’s overall objectives, that it didn’t go through a proper prioritisation process, no business case or plan had been produced as to what the scheme would deliver, or a plan of how it would be managed prior to approving the spend.
Whatever your political beliefs, it seems very clear that something is not right? It may be convenient not to believe it because it makes you feel uncomfortable but when the MD of the RBWM calls in the Chartered Institute for Public Finance and Accounting (CIPFA) then that has to be a red flag that something is very wrong, doesn’t it?
We are almost at the tipping point of Independent Councillors becoming the majority and the dawn of a brand new concept, certainly for the Royal Borough… an Independent RBWM council!
We need to question all decision making, past, present and future and expect a number of Councillors to reflect and consider their roles where such disregard for the RBWM finances, has placed the financial stability of our local authority at such risk.
Guardian journalist Carole Cadwalladr who features in the film The Great Hack describes the complex Cambridge Analytica scandal as a media firestorm that’s yet to be extinguished as it is clear that there are still so many unanswered questions that require further investigation.
At RBWM the investigation has just begun so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next but when we find out more we will keep you informed…
Please read the full statement by the Local Independents and be assured that we will not allow this behaviour to continue.