The Shadowy World of Common Purpose?

One of the nice features of WhatDoTheyKnow.com is the the ability to track all requests made to an authority you’re interested in. You can either get an RSS feed, or daily updates by email.

I set it up to track Belfast City Council, and in the process discovered the whole new world of conspiracy theories that is wrapped up in Common Purpose. Is this merely an educational charity, or is it really, as per David Icke, a sinister organisation (presumably led by giant lizards) with the aim of controlling the UK? Enquiring minds want to know.

So, as enquiring minds do these days, someone sent a series of FoI request to pretty much every government authority they could find asking for copies of all payments made to Common Purpose since 2000.

In further exploring the responses to these (which seem to fall into two camps: “We’ve never sent anyone on their courses or paid them any money” and “Here are the four hundred invoices for the huge numbers of training courses we’ve participated in”), I stumbled across a strange exchange with Rother District Council.

The first part that caught my eye was that they at first tried to avoid answering the request on grounds that the act requires a postal address. The requestor quite rightly pointed out that an email address has long since been established as a valid “address for correspondence” under the Act, and triggered quite a strange rant from the Council’s Legal Services Manager about how TheyWorkForYou.com is an “amateurish website” and how he fails to see what practical purpose it serves.

Curiosity piqued, I paid more attention to the eventual response where it was stated: “I confirm that the Council has not sent any employees or Members on any such course and therefore no payments have been made in this respect.”

Now, when a lawyer who has already shown a tendency towards pedanticness phrases something in that manner I get suspicious.

Does “no payments have been made in this respect” mean that payments have been made in other respects?

So, I’ve asked them to clarify this.

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