Dear British Council Reader
I’ll explain how I know I have British Council readers shortly, but first I just want to say that all BC personnel of good will are very welcome. This letter is about the fundamental principles to which we both aspire of openness and transparency.
I will take it as a given that you know that my company and the British Council had a long-standing and successful association in respect of our English in Britain publications, and also as a given that you accept that the British Council’s first attempt at a course database driven website of its own was a disaster (a point that was specifically conceded in a later informal meeting with two of your senior management staff). But what the Council did next was not nice, and so I invite you to ask your employers the following questions:
- Following the catastrophe of January 2002 the Council appointed the staff who were officially liaising with EFL Services in respect of the English in Britain cooperative agreement simultaneously to manage the development of an entirely new direct competitor to English in Britain. Would you consider that such an arrangement was ethical and/or appropriate?
- Since there was no provision for this dedicated EFL section in the scheduled programme of work for Education UK, and since there had been no mention of it by either Council staff or the Council’s consultants while they were encouraging us to sign a waiver in November 2001 (when data entry was already well advanced), why did the Council tell the EFL sector in mid-January 2002 that an entirely new and dedicated EFL service had been scheduled? If it had been, when exactly was that?
- Given that the British Council was committed to a cooperative agreement with EFL Services, and indeed to supporting our publications with its “best efforts”, why was the conflict-of-interest-inducing appointment referred to above not disclosed to EFL Services? Would you expect such an arrangement to underpin, or undermine, cooperation?
- With reference to the critical meeting that was arranged by these same staff with the BC’s new consultants on January 31st 2002 to agree on an entirely new EFL database structure, new data searches, and approach to the market including service prices, why was that meeting not minuted?
- Why are the minutes of the subsequent meeting on February 12th 2002 not available from the British Council, and why indeed does the British Council say through their FOI division “we assume that no minutes were ever produced for this meeting”? Minutes were produced and distributed and are in the possession of at least one British Council reader of this blog.
- Is it not a little disturbing that minutes of meetings which might offer evidence of the British Council apparently working in the interests of one contracted partner (where it had a financial interest) and against the interests of another (where it did not), and which might go a long way to explaining the clear similarity in data model, should be consigned to a memory hole?
- If the British Council is faced with a clear conflict of interest as a result (for whatever reason) of signing competing contracts, is the best course of action for a national cultural relations body to address the issues head on, or to deny their existence and just hope they will go away?
- When in the summer of 2004 the British Council was nudged into activity by the DFES Secretary of State, why did it not investigate the allegations that were actually made and address the real issues, rather than putting up its own mysterious, and factually incorrect, allegations?
- Why was EFL Services subsequently referred to the Parliamentary Ombudsman when the Council must have known that a submission to that office – statutorily barred from such investigations - could only waste everybody’s time, including ours, our MP’s and the Ombudsman’s?
- The British Council has so far claimed to have investigated this matter “seven times” and on each of those occasions to have found “no basis” for our allegations. What sort of organisation investigates something for which there is “no basis” seven times (using the same staff!)? Why not have a proper, professional review and resolve the matter once and for all?
There are of course plenty more questions you may wish to ask (e.g. about the Council’s eccentric contractual arrangements, the “consortium”, the meetings around the country in the spring of 2002 and so on, or perhaps what on earth the British Council are doing messing around with legitimate tax-paying enterprise in this way at all) but for the time being I have run out of fingers.
I said I would explain how we know about British Council readers of this blog. Well, when you click on an RSS feed, the feed is told by the subscriber what folder to use and so the path to that folder is necessarily given to the provider of the feed. In the case of British Council employees the path to the relevant “temp” folder includes, just above C:\Documents and Settings\, the employee’s full name. So John, Christopher, Julia, Ellen, Ben, Andrew, Kathryn, and the dozen others who did the same thing, there’s another thing it’s best to be open about. Who else is likely to read this blog? Click on this link to see how Alexa rates the traffic to, for example, Education UK. It’s pretty good. Now in the box under the graph marked “Compare educationuk.org vs. “, type edufind.com. That’s ours too, and we’re not going away.
With kind regards