FOI 303 Don enquires about spurious costings?

Dear “FreedomofInformation” <Freedomofinformation@rotherham.gov.uk>

Thank you for the information you have provided in relation to my FOI request.

I am intrigued as to your spurious notional cost of £21.37 and would appreciate an itemised breakdown of how the spurious notional cost was determined.

Yours Sincerely,
Donald H. Buxton

On Fri, 3/8/12, FreedomofInformation <Freedomofinformation@rotherham.gov.uk> wrote:

From: FreedomofInformation <Freedomofinformation@rotherham.gov.uk>
Subject: Freedom Of Information Request (303) – Response From Rotherham MBC
To: Don Buxton
Date: Friday, 3 August, 2012, 9:27

Dear Mr. Buxton

Freedom of Information Act 2000 – Request for Information 303

I refer to your request for information dated 12 July 2012 for an electronic copy of the document “Assessment of Local Need”.  The document is available on the Council website via the link below.

http://www.rotherham.gov.uk/downloads/download/323/libraries_plans_policies_and_reports

In accordance with the procedures of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC), I am advising you that the cost to the authority in responding to this request has been £21.37 which reflects the staff time and administration costs involved. RMBC however does not currently make any charge to customers for processing Freedom of Information Act requests.

If you are not satisfied with this response you have the right to an internal review by the Council.  Please contact us via the above email address or by post to Sarah Corbett, Information Governance Manager, Legal Services, Council Offices, Doncaster Gate, Doncaster Road , Rotherham . South Yorkshire , S65 1DJ .

If you are not satisfied with the internal review, you can appeal to the Information Commissioner.  Contact details are: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane , Wilmslow, Cheshire . SK9 5AF. Telephone 01625 545700. Alternatively go to http://www.ico.gov.uk/

Yours sincerely

Wayne Singleton

Records & Information Management Officer
Information Governance Unit
Legal Services
Resources Directorate
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

7 thoughts on “FOI 303 Don enquires about spurious costings?

  1. If it costs RMBC £21.37 to supply a link to their website, I think someone is being taken for a numpty or the office person is being paid too much! Either way methinks we the electorate can’t afford RMBC. There’s no wonder we ant got nowt for services!

    Like

  2. Said this before, but I still can’t understand why we are told how much it costs Rotherham council staff to do the job they are paid for. Does the Council regard supplying answers to FOI requests as something outside their normal responsibilities? Why the hell does information – information collected for us, using our money and on our behalf – always have to dragged out of the Council as if extracting teeth?
    I’ve been looking at the websites of towns in the USA with a population about the same as Rotherham’s, and several points immediately stand out:
    a) some though and creativity has gone into their design – paying a good site designer should cost about the same as civic banquet, I think. An attractive, engaging site will interest anyone looking to invest in Rotherham, and would be a source of pride for the town’s citizens.
    b) all the information is scrupulously up to date. That includes representatives’ biographies – how many of Rotherham’s fat-arsed councillors can’t be bothered to supply any details at all, never mind keep them up to date?
    c) availability of information. The attitude of those American towns seems to be “It’s your town, so you have the right to easy access to all information”. In Rotherham, Don Buxton has to fire off yet another another FOI request to provoke the grudging release of the location of the “Needs assessment” carried out for the libraries review.
    c) information is clearly labelled and easily accessible. Have you ever tried finding information by searching on the RMBC site? And if the information is available, it’s written in a way that seems almost deliberately osbscure. The Needs Assessment mentioned above, for example, is full of slogans, cliches and council-speak. No effort has been made to clarify it for the lay reader, and as a result it reads as condescending claptrap written by first-year politics students.

    The American towns seemed to take openness, service and modernity as givens – but if the Internet had existed in the 1930s, then the RMBC website shows what it would have looked like.

    Like

  3. Lallocks, Thanks for your comment. You make some very astute points there!

    It’s always been my experience, the longer the title, the less they would be missed.
    So, what are we to make of someone with as long a title as this?

    Records & Information Management Officer
    Information Governance Unit
    Legal Services
    Resources Directorate
    Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

    Think I’ve just answered my own question?

    My next question, how many of them are there? We should be told!

    Like

  4. Lallocks, your assessment of RMBC documents and publications is spot on.

    The majority are produced in-house by the corporate communications department with input from Officers.

    They are written in council double speak using phrases that confuse the reader.

    On the matter of dragging information out of RMBC again you are correct, an ongoing example is of a local animal welfare campaigner who is currently trying to establish the amount of Kashrut and Halal meat served in Rotherham schools, the most recent answer she has been given is at best economical with the truth.

    Like

  5. Regarding The RMBC Website.
    It is one of many implementations of the Jadu Content Management System (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jadu ). Building a be-spoke system would have been seriously expensive and the solution that was chosen was a valid route to take. Many other UK Authorities also use Jadu. But like all Content Management Systems it does require the departmental staff to look after their own aspects of the site, and as has been noted in this blog, lots of the departments fall short on this.

    There is one aspect of the site that is apparently very weak, that is the internal google search facility; with 22 years of meetings online, there have been problems prioritising the information for display. I tend to use a Google site search from outside the RMBC site if I want to find things, particularly those in the moderngov.rotherham.gov.uk sub-domain.
    but I understand that searching from here also works well. http://moderngov.rotherham.gov.uk/uuCoverpage.aspx?bcr=1

    If Lallocks were to say which US sites were visited we would be able to compare for ourselves, as it is I find most US City websites very limited.
    It is certainly true that the US is far far more open with information – and that’s great – remember the days before we had FoI ? … and they still hate to release anything.

    Like

    • Regular Reader

      What you say about the fault lying at departmental level rather than the site itself makes sense. After reading your comment I went back to the Rotherham site to take a look. I must admit it’s been some time since I went over there, and it’s much better than it was. Your suggestion about using Google as a first stop is also useful.

      I had checked the sites of several US towns of about 117,000 people, and the most obvious difference is that they all offer videos of council and planning meetings. The general attitude is one of encouraging availability. I suppose this is influenced by prevailing legislation – for example, the Sunshine laws or the Truth in Taxation laws, which require regulatory authorities’ meetings, decisions and records to be made available to the public:

      http://www.cityofdenton.com/

      As I said, it does seem as if the modernisers are winning at Town Hall Towers, but how many of the councillors themselves are really behind this? I still can’t imagine anything like this example from Victorville happening here!

      “At their meeting held July 17, 2012, the City Council by unanimous vote agreed to waive their closed session privilege and release for public inspection the excerpts from closed session notes and audio recordings from the following meetings…”

      The site for Lansing seems exemplary:
      http://www.cityoflansingmi.com/

      especially the range of information available on the City Hall page. Comments here have complained about the availability and clarity – even relevance – of documentation they feel is of interest. Campaigners like Don Buxton shouldn’t have to resort to FOIs to
      winkle out information, or be subject to some spurious charge.

      Like

Leave your comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.