Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Another Day, Another Freedom of Information Post

It's getting tedious isn't it? Maybe I should write articles when there ISN'T a major NCC FoI fail instead?

But seriously folks, we have a further decision notice from the Information Commissioner upholding a complaint I made, further details of which can be found here.

As you can see, NCC is blatantly flouting the FoIA here. The ICO has previously issued a formal instruction to provide the info or issue a valid refusal citing grounds, which NCC ignored. They have since promised the ICO that they would provide a response by 25 March but haven't delivered. The decision notice says that they really, really must comply this time, with five weeks to comply. So that's jolly well told them, by George.

It seems that failure to follow the decision could result in the matter being registered with the High Court and further non-compliance would be a contempt of court. That I'd like to see...

The final point the decision makes is that NCC is unable to rely on the power to extend the time limit because it has failed to confirm that it is relying on a qualified exemption under the Act, merely saying that it may do so which isn't enough. Silly NCC.

In other FoI news, NCC has missed the deadline to respond to a meta request about how often it fails to meet the deadlines for FoI requests. As the requester invites NCC to agree, that is 'somewhat ironic'.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Over Sensitivity Alert

I was having a bit of a strop yesterday because the Post seems to be deleting a lot of my comments on articles these days so I decided to email them. Here's part of their reply -

"The only comment of yours we have recently removed, following a complaint that it was in breach of our rules because it was insulting, is this one:

"Gosh! How WILL they survive without this essential cog in the machine? "

which was submitted on April 4 on an article headlined: City's communications head taking unpaid leave."

Note the phrase 'following a complaint'. Is Pugwash keeping tabs on his media mentions while he's bobbing around on the canals? Diddums.

Incidentally, it may be that the Post has a techy fault cos numerous comments have been disappearing and reappearing over the last few days and others have noticed it as well.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011


Another round up of bits and bobs that don't really warrant a post on their own...

It seems that JoCo has invented time travel. On 13 April the Save Supporting People peeps tweeted that he'd blown out an appearance at a 'Fighting the Cuts' debate that evening. On Sunday JoCo blamed this on being "too knackered from having run the London Marathon raising money for charity!" inducing guilt trips in us all. Except of course, the marathon was four days after the debate Save SPServices were talking about...

Remember NCC refused to allow the use of the Council House for the 2010 East Midlands Vegan Festival, resulting in its cancellation? They claimed excessive 'wear and tear' was the reason but there was already some doubt on that and now they've held a wedding fair which, with nearly a 1000 people attending would presumably result in a bit of wear ant tear, especially with all those brides to be trying on their wedding heels. Still, fobbing off the little people is one thing but when there's a need to promote Nottingham's hottest new (moneyspinning for NCC) wedding venue that's a different matter entirely.

Looks like Nottingham Equal are being funded for another year for helping with 'community cohesion'. However, it seems that 'community cohesion' only extends to race and religion in NCC's eyes. Of course, that was very similar to the criticism they made of CEHRNN before withdrawing its funding in its entirity, resulting in its eventual shutdown.

Odd things going on with recruiting Michael Williams' replacement as Corporate Director of Communities. The Appointments and Conditions of Service committee has just handed the post to someone on a six month temp contract. There's no mention of that in an earlier report setting out the recruitment process. How much more will this extra stage cost us, not to mention that a temp appointment will probably be paid at a higher rate than a permanent postholder.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Now One Nottingham Ignores Discretionary Housing Payments

One Nottingham discussed the potential effects of welfare reform at its meeting on 25th of March.

I've previously taken the piss out of ON's sudden panic at policies New Labour has been laying the groundwork on for years. Why weren't there briefings before?

This time there was an 'update' paper which spent quite a lot time discussing the effects of housing benefit changes without once mentioning Discretionary Housing Payments. Can you believe that?

We haven't got the minutes of the meeting yet but there is a new edition of the ON Bulletin out which reports on the meeting. However the welfare reform bit is a largely word for word reproduction of the above paper so it seems unlikely that anybody brought DHPs into the discussion.


Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Information Commissioner Monitoring Nottingham City Council

The Information Commissioner has announced that Nottingham City Council is to be monitored having failed to meet one or more 'performance markers' on promptness in dealing with FoI requests.

The press release doesn't mention which marker NCC had failed on but it could have been one of the following; six complaints of lateness in a six month period, significantly exceeding the time limit on one occasion or more or, in the case of authorities that publish their stats on speed of compliance (which NCC doesn't natch), if less than 85% of requests are met on time.

Frankly, NCC would probably have no problem failing the first two markers in my cases alone and the only thing stopping them failing the third one is that they don't publish the data. There's a sort of perverse incentive in there somewhere. Mind you, when NCC were asked for the figures in response to a FoI request they were woefully short of that target.

Still, there's probably little more than a smack on the wrist waiting for them. The last lot subjected to monitoring appear to have been merely asked to 'sign an undertaking'.

Monday, 11 April 2011

NCC's Contempt for Freedom of Information is Unravelling

Long term attentive readers with good memories may remember Stephanie Pearson's proud claim to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee last year that NCC had received no decision notices from the Information Commissioner in the previous two years.

Notwithstanding that she was talking rubbish, the case concerning the legal advice on the appropriation of part of the Arboretum was in 2009, things seem to be falling apart now.

Looking at the ICO's list of cases involving NCC, a case popped up barely two months after Ms Pearson's impassioned self-congratulations.

And it gets worse, there has been four decision notices already this year and it's only April.

Minor update - just phoned ICO about one case, it's "...with enforcement, can't tell you any more..."

Friday, 8 April 2011

Freedom of Information Fail

Had another FoI decision back from the Information Commissioner's Office. Unfortunately, and somewhat bizarrely in my opinion, my complaint was not upheld.

Well I say it wasn't upheld but in fact it was partially upheld in as far as the breached s.10 of the FoIA because the response was delayed but that kind of goes without saying these days. The bit they didn't uphold was the important bit and demonstrates considerable gullibility on the ICO's part.

The case was about NCC's decision to appoint consultants Dunbar and Boardman to look after the council's lifts. I'd got most of the info including how much they were paying but I wanted a copy of the decision to hire them which NCC said they didn't have. The ICO decided to believe them on 'the balance of probabilities'.

Now I know it's hard to prove a negative but let's put this in the context of NCC's conduct throughout the case. Remember that they initially claimed that no consultants had been appointed, before having to contradict themselves at review when I pointed out that I knew Dunbar and Boardman were on board. They also claimed that no accidents had occurred, forgetting about the nasty Viccy Flats one which had just featured in the Post (and which is still under investigation by the HSE as far as I know).

Now have a read of the ICO investigator's account of his attempts to get this last bit of info from NCC, in particular para 21 -

Looks like a bit of a runaround doesn't it? Kind of a bit like they were trying to avoid the issue and hoping it would go away.

Yet, when NCC finally says that there is no decision, despite this record of ahem, 'inaccuracy' and evasive behaviour, despite the fact that it is highly unlikely that a council would simply hand over £3.3k per month without there being a paper trail, the ICO accepts this.

I wonder how much money is thrown around without a record being kept?

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Local Elections

Yep, the local elections are approaching and I just know that you are all clamouring for me to tell you who to vote for.

No? What do you mean you can think for yourself? Oh alright then, I'll just whittle on randomly about a few issues without drawing any firm conclusions and you can jolly well decide for yourselves then, see if I care.

Lets start with a look at who isn't running. I've already written about a few rumours here and there but it seems that the numbers leaving the ship are higher than I thought. Here's the list -

Hylton James (Aspley)
Rob Lee (Basford)
Hassan Ahmed (Berridge)
Eileen Heppel (Bulwell)
Zahoor Mir (Dunkirk and Lenton)
Michael Edwards (Mapperley)
Mo Munir (Mapperley)
Katrina Bull (Radford and Park)
Afzal Khan (Radford and Park)
Penny Griggs (Sherwood)
Dick Benson (Wollaton West)

That's 20% of currently sitting councillors not running, all except that last one being Labour, two of them Executive members. Of course the best news is that Hassan Ahmed isn't running, possibly because some of his fun and games are catching up with him. He still features quite visibly among the pics on Labour's manifesto mind, not sure that was wise.

Actually, that manifesto has a few design fails if you ask me. I'm sure they could have got hold of a pic of a scaffolding free Council House for example and the tram pic heavily laden with adverts for train tickets out of Nottingham might end up looking a little bit symbolic in retrospect.

I'm a little disappointed that I'm still not going to get a chance to vote for a Green Party candidate and it looks like there's only four running citywide. I don't think the 'Elvis Turns Green' candidate in Berridge is quite the same thing. At least Dales ward residents have the opportunity to vote for Lord Biro, this time standing for the 'Militant Elvis Anti-Tesco Popular Front' ticket. So if you fancy giving David Mellen a bloody nose...

I should also mention that former Labour councillor Mick Newton is running as an independent. That could be one to watch.

Of course the Lib Dems will be hoping and praying that the national hate against them won't be reflected locally. That said, it seems that Dunkirk and Lenton candidate Alisdair McGregor seems to have had to nominate himself*. I don't hold out much hope for his ability to attract votes if he can't find two other people willing to nominate him.

One last thing. If you vote for JoCo you deserve to have your gonads removed with a rusty spoon. The single biggest factor that would improve NCC would be his removal if you ask me.

The full list of nominees is here.

*It could be a misprint

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

NCC's Comms Team Vets Freedom of Info Responses

Someone in NCC's Info Governance team let slip an interesting detail when attempting to explain delays in a response.

When replying to a clearly frustrated enquirer on 31 March the officer said -

"Responses have to be signed off by both the head of the relevant service area and by our communications team."

This raises an interesting question. What happens if the comms team (which is JoCo's 'Pravda' after all and whose Director Stephen Barker reports directly to Jane Todd) decides that some of the info that Info Gov is planning to release is just a little bit too, erm, truthful for effective PR purposes? Do they have the last word of does Info Gov decide?

At the very least it appears to introduce significant delays into the process which is a big problem for NCC.

I wonder if Stephen 'Pugwash' Barker is being kept in the loop while he's on his extended boating holiday?

Friday, 1 April 2011

The End of the Road...NOT REALLY!!!!

Oh come on, me, become an auxilliary CPO? For free? ;)

A few people bought it, there's a couple in the comments (along with an equal number who spotted my merry jape), one on the Facebook page and and I've just got a very nice email.

Actually, those who fell for it have all been very kind in expressing their disappointment which does make me feel a bit guilty. I hope you can all forgive me.

On a related subject here's NCC's April Fool. Maybe I'm a bit over sensitive or po-faced but isn't the last bit a teensy bit chilling?

Oh, and here's my effort from last time. Roll on next year...


Yes folks, it's finally happened. This blog has reached the end of its working life.

In a bittersweet development, it may be the start of mine. I have applied and been accepted as an Auxiliary Community Protection Officer and I start training next Monday. It was made crystal clear that writing the blog is not compatible with these new duties.

I have to admit that it wasn't entirely my decision. As I've mentioned I do have health issues and I've been on one of those Jobcentre schemes for getting Incapacity Benefit claimants back to work. They've been getting a bit heavy with me not really making an effort and said that my chances of keeping my benefit would be 'assisted' if I took some steps to improve my employability. They suggested voluntary work and, after a suspiciously short delay revealed that NCC were looking for ACPOs. I kind of said yes to get them off my back.

But it's ok, I've been wanting to do something with my time anyway and this is as good as anything else. I'll miss the blogging mind.

So, goodbye dear readers. I hope my writings have helped you learn a bit about how NCC works. Who knows, maybe someone else will offer to take the blog over?