Campaigner vows to keep asking questions

A FREEDOM of information campaigner today claimed he would not shut up - despite being told by a local authority he has cost them thousands with his challenging questions.

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A FREEDOM of information campaigner today claimed he would not shut up - despite being told by a local authority he has cost them thousands with his challenging questions.

Disabled champion Ray Cattermole, 70, from Earl Stonham, constantly challenges his council over the work they are undertaking, on a variety of issues he cares deeply about.

Mr Cattermole, a 1950s county swimming champion, has spent years working with the disabled encouraging them to be more active.


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Among the concerns he has raised with Mid Suffolk District Council is the way the authority has provided disabled facilities at the town's leisure centre.

Through the years he has written letters, asked questions at council meetings, asked for internal reviews, submitted Freedom of Information requests and reported the authority to the Information Commissioner.

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He said: “I have to ask the difficult questions, and I will carry on asking the difficult questions until I am satisfied in my own mind that the council are working to the rules.

“This is my democratic right. Sometimes you can accept things, sometimes you have to fight. At the end of the day we all have to work to the rules.”

Chris Fry, corporate director with the council, said: “We answer 95 per cent of Ray's questions within the timescales. We have been courteous, polite, tried to provide answers and there is hardly a letter we have not answered.

“I could not count the number of times I have responded to him or spoken to him and it's gone to the chief financial officer, the chief executive, councillors.

“In 18 months to two years we estimate this has cost £4,500 in officer time and that is a very conservative estimate, probably just the tip of the iceberg.”

Mr Cattermole's most recent battle during the summer was a success when The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) ordered the authority to release a 2004 contract with a commercial partner, including the financial details about repairs and maintenance, at Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre in Stowmarket.

Mr Cattermole felt the disabled were being short changed. The retired draughtsman said that an exorbitant £68,500 had been earmarked to make the centre comply with the Disability Discrimination Act but he feared that funds were actually being used to prepare the complex for privatisation.

Assistant commissioner Anne Jones criticised the authority for taking several months to deal with the complainant's request for an internal review, and the ICO formally reminded the council of its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act.

What do you think of Mr Cattermole's crusade? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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