Tales from the Town Hall – adds fuel to the fire – Rotherham Council: What A Pantomime!

The quite wonderful, Tales from the Town Hall, has covered this tale of Council failure to follow it’s own rules:

Rotherham Council: What A Pantomime!
For years Rotherham Council has been putting up a hoarding on the side of its arts centre advertising the town’s pantomime. But, thanks to the savvy of one of the town’s more outspoken citizens, it now appears the council has never had planning permission to erect the advertising hoarding. This from a council that recently took a pensioner to court for advertising on the side of his home details of his son’s business. Read story……

New from the FOI Register – Is RMBC breaking planning laws?

See the FOI Register for the full information requested because of this Huge Poster being displayed on a council building! Without benefit of planning permission it would seem? Click on image to Read on……

Readers might be interested in the contrast with the way they dealt with Arthur Newey, Read Arthur Newey still fighting 10 years on!.

Rob Foulds writes again on woeful RMBC website – FOI 372

Rob Foulds has enquired further when the promised improvements still do not work!

“Dear Mr Waller
For your advice the records of the Standards Committee Review Panel are still not appearing under the Council’s website page ‘Meetings, agendas and minutes’ in spite of your acceptance of the need for this to be the case.
It is noticeable however that the references on that web page, to the Standards Committee, have been altered since our previous correspondence and whilst links are offered to a would-be enquirer, these have been devised to result in the production of no useful information whatsoever.
This is the link to the page where I’m supposed to be able to find the records > http://moderngov.rotherham.gov.uk/ieListMeetings.aspx?CId=919&Year=2011 and you will see for yourself that there is nothing there of relevance to the Review Panel Hearings. In fact, why that page should offer me a link to Declarations of Interests, I really don’t know; furthermore it offers to provide me with the Interests of Cllr Cutts, for instance, and as you will know that should be (emphatically) “Mr Cutts”.
Yours sincerely
Robert Foulds”

Thanks to Rob Foulds, for keeping us updated on this particular saga. Anyone with a tale to tell on this issue, please tell us with a comment. Alternatively contact RikiLeaks  in confidence.

Rob Foulds probes further? FOI 372 – update on developments

Rob Foulds, has received a response from Richard Waller, I reproduce it below:

“On 27 September 2011 12:26, Waller, Richard <Richard.Waller@rotherham.gov.uk> wrote:

Dear Mr Foulds

I am writing in reply to your e-mail dated 15 September in which you state that you wish to make a formal complaint about the Council’s failure to make information about Standard Committee review panels freely and clearly available to the public.  You suggest that the Council has hidden this information from the public.  The reason is rather more mundane. 

 Save for written summaries, documentation in connection with meetings of the Standard Committee’s assessment and review panels is not available to the public by virtue of regulation 8 (application of the Local Government Act 1972) of the Standards Committee (England) Regulations 2008.  Regulation 8 (5) (a) of the 2008 Regulations disapplies Part VA (access to meetings and documents of certain authorities, committees and sub-committees) of the Local Government Act 1972 in relation to access to meetings and documents of the Standards Committee’s assessment and review panels.  Statutory guidance published by Standards for England explains why:  “Such meetings may have to consider unfounded and potentially damaging complaints about members, which it would not be appropriate to make public”.

However, in accordance with regulation 8 (5) (b) & (c) of the 2008 Regulations, a written summary of the hearing is published and can be found in the Standards Committee pages of the Council’s website in the Council and Democracy section under Standards Committee.  If you had clicked on that page you would have been able to access written summaries of assessment and review panel meetings (see the bottom of that page: Code of conduct complaints process – written summaries). 

 I agree however that the relevant page of the  Agenda, Reports, Minutes pages of the Council and Democracy section of the website should be cross-referenced to the Standards Committee page and shall arrange for this to be done.  I apologise for any inconvenience caused.    

If you are not satisfied with this 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 www.ico.gov.org.

Kind regards

Richard Waller”

Clearly not content with this as an adequate response to his enquiry and replied in the following terms:

“Dear Mr Waller
The second-last paragraph of your response therefore agrees that my formal complaint is justified and you confirm that you will arrange to rectify the failings of Rotherham Council.
The analogy is simple: if I call in at Rotherham Library and seek a copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, I think it would be reasonable to find it in the classic fiction section thereof. And I would certainly not expect a librarian to ultimately advise me that it was “publicly available”  in the geography section, under Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, and thereafter provide me with an abstract explanation of why it was so filed.

In spite of your protestation of mundanity and voluminous quotes from various legislation, the real truth is that the records to which I refer, used to be filed under Agenda, Reports, Minutes and someone at Rotherham Council deliberately removed the records from that logical location and only after receiving a formal complaint, as usual, does your Authority decide to apply appropriate ‘standards’ of administration. By the way, there is still a major lack of information pertaining to the Standards Committee on the Agenda, Reports, Minutes web page.
Finally, it is notable that you have treated my formal complaint as an “internal review” of my original Freedom of Information request – again, the well-worn standard RMBC tactic of manipulation is employed. Surely to God, you must have realised by now that there are some members of the public who can see straight through your Authority’s manoeuvrings.
Yours sincerely

Robert Foulds”

Further developments on this FOI and others, visit The FOI Register.

Information kindly supplied by Rob Foulds, to whom we are grateful! Readers might like to have first go at highlighting the lessons this email exchange illuminates!

Don Buxton probes for information – response now in!

We brought you the news that Don Buxton was enquiring of the Council what had happened to a previous loan to the ‘Millers’ of £25,000. Read Don’s questions by clicking on this link to the original post, Don Buxton probes for information.

Response:

RMBC do not hold any information and therefore we cannot provide a response to your questions. Any financial information pertaining to the 1986 loan has been destroyed in accordance with guidelines for the retention of financial data.

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 £106 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/
Regards
Wayne Singleton

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

Tel From New: (01709) 746872
Tel From Old: (01709) 336872
Fax: (01709) 336969
Email: wayne.singleton@rotherham.gov.uk
Visit our website: http://www.rotherham.gov.uk
Before printing, think about the environment
The information in this e-mail is confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual to whom it was addressed.  If you are not the intended recipient, be advised that you have received this e-mail in error and that any use, dissemination, forwarding, printing or copying of this e-mail is strictly prohibited.  If you have received this e-mail in error, please advise the sender by using the reply facility in your e-mail software, and then delete it from your system. Rotherham MBC may monitor the content of the e-mails sent and received via its network for the purposes of ensuring compliance with the law and with RMBC policies. Any views or opinions presented are only those of the author and not those of Rotherham MBC.

Not satisfied Don Buxton replied on the 7th September:

From: DON BUXTON [mailto: donbuxton@btinternet.com ]
Sent: 06 September 2011 17:29
To: FreedomofInformation
Subject: Re: Freedom Of Information Request (330) – Response

Dear Freedomofinformation@rotherham.gov.uk

Thank you for your predictable and much anticipated FOI response which was entirely in line with my modest expectations. It comes as no surprise whatsoever to me that RMBC is relying on corporate Transient Global Amnesia (TGA) to reply to my question.

It also appears from the historic records of the Advertiser from which the story was originally gleaned that there was also similar collective TGA among the Labour Elected Members of 1986 who also appeared to have no such recall of the specific terms and conditions of their dispensation of public largesse at that time.

You further make reference to a ridiculous spurious notional sum of £106 for the production of the response to me. I shall be grateful if you will be kind enough to specifically quantify and itemise the basis upon which you make your fanciful hypothetical financial calculation.

Also please further advise me on whether the complete financial details in relation to the sum of £5 Million of taxpayers’ money which has been publicised this year as being offered to Rotherham United FC will be available to obtain and peruse in detail under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act.

Yours Sincerely,
Donald H. Buxton

A timely response was received:

From: FreedomofInformation <Freedomofinformation@rotherham.gov.uk>
Subject: RE: Freedom Of Information Request (330) – Response
To: “DON BUXTON” <donbuxton@btinternet.com>
Date: Wednesday, 7 September, 2011, 9:11

Dear Mr Buxton,

The cost was calculated as follows:

Access to Information Officer, Logging, administration and response Band F 1 hour £21.38
Chief Accountant , Research PO18 1.5 hours £84.29

Yours sincerely,
Sarah Corbett

Information Governance Manager
Information Governance Unit
Legal Services
Chief Executives Directorate
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

Don Buxton now incredulous responded thus:

Dear Freedomofinformation@rotherham.gov.uk

Thank you for your specific itemised breakdown in relation to the spurious notional sum of £106 which you originally included in your FOI response to me.

I am simply amazed that RMBC admit that it has taken them 1 hour for an Access to Information Officer to “log, administer and respond” and then it has further taken a Chief Accountant 1.5 hours to “research”, in order to provide me with the meagre response of: “RMBC do not hold any information and therefore we cannot provide a response to your questions. Any financial information pertaining to the 1986 loan has been destroyed in accordance with guidelines for the retention of financial data.”
Yours Sincerely,

Donald H. Buxton

The FOI Register

The FOI Register

The Freedom of Information Act 2000, (FOI) gave us important rights to new types of information from governmental and other public bodies. It also gave rise to The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) I quote from their website:

“The Information Commissioner’s Office is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.”

.

Our aim is to catalogue all of our contributors and readers FOI request so that information can be effectively shared. Probably the most important part of making an FOI request, getting exposure for the results!

To share yours with us please, Email us by clicking here.

To read The FOI Register click here.