Fiddling the figures!

Have we learned more than was intended from the latest Freedom of Information request made by Don Buxton?

The original FOI request was logged by the Council as FOI 303 and responded to. When Don asked for clarification of the response, this was logged as a separate and new FOI 323, how so?

This will artificially inflate the apparent number of FOIs processed and therefore justify the associated jobs!

Have we caught them out fiddling the figures?

Seems we cannot rely on any of the performance statistics, if outrageous and cynical manipulation of the basic statistics is going on?

FOI 323 Don gets his answer on spurious costings?

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

Thank you for your response which is understood and noted.

Yours Sincerely,
Donald H. Buxton

From: FreedomofInformation <Freedomofinformation@rotherham.gov.uk>
Subject: FOI Request – 323
To: DON BUXTON
Date: Monday, 6 August, 2012, 11:39

Dear Mr. Buxton

Freedom of Information Act 2000 – Request for Information – 323

I refer to your request for information for an itemised breakdown of the costs for FOI request 303.  I can provide the following information:

Post

Task

Salary Band

Time (Hours)

Cost

Records & Information Management Officer

Initial admin and logging

F

0.5

10.69

Records & Information Management Officer

Locating information and responding

F

0.5

10.69

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, Riverside House, Main Street , Rotherham , S60 1AE .
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,
Kyle Hopkins

Access to Information Assistant
Information Governance Unit
Legal Services
Resources Directorate
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

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

FOI Request 106

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

Thank you for your breakdown of the spurious notional costs you attach to my legitimate FOI enquiry.

I am struck at the marked difference in RMBC’s approach to FOIs in comparison to Leeds City Council who attach no such spurious notional costs to FOIs regardless of where and from whom they originate.

I would like to offer the following advice to RMBC in relation to its attachment of spurious notional costs to FOIs. If you had attached your itemised breakdown along with the FOI response this would have saved £15.37 and also further informed the customer as to the financial methodology used by RMBC.

The above comments and customer advice are offered in a constructive context as a Critical Friend of RMBC, and I make no charge whatsoever for the provision of the comments and advice as it falls within my remit as an active and empowered citizen with an interest in the workings of local democracy and the costs and activities of RMBC Elected Members and Officers.

Yours Sincerely,
Donald H. Buxton

On Mon, 30/7/12,<Freedomofinformation@rotherham.gov.uk> wrote:
From: FreedomofInformation <Freedomofinformation@rotherham.gov.uk>
Subject: FOI Request 216
To: DON BUXTON
Date: Monday, 30 July, 2012, 15:20

Dear Mr Buxton,

I refer to your request for information for an itemised breakdown of the costs for FOI request 166.  I can provide the following information:

Post

Task

Salary Band

Time (Hours)

Cost

Information Governance Assistant Administration and logging request

D

0.33

£5.58

Solicitor Provision of Advice

L

0.16

£6.87

Information Governance Manager Draft Response

K

0.25

£9.78

Business Manager Safeguarding Advice

PO16

0.16

£7.85

 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 £15.37 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, Riverside House, Main Street , Rotherham , S60 1AE .

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,

Sarah Corbett
Information Governance Manager
Information Governance Unit
Legal Services
Resources Directorate
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

Rotherham’s Disgrace – The questions begin? FOI 166 – An answer of sorts is received!

Don got his answer:

On Wed, 27/6/12, Corbett, Sarah <Sarah.Corbett@rotherham.gov.uk> wrote:

From: Corbett, Sarah <Sarah.Corbett@rotherham.gov.uk>
Subject: FOI Request 166
To: DON BUXTON
Date: Wednesday, 27 June, 2012, 10:33

Dear Mr Buxton,

I refer to your recent request for information regarding the article in the Star newspaper.  Please note that some of this information is not held by Rotherham MBC.  The information is held by Rotherham Local Childrens Safeguarding Board (LCSB) who operate as a separate legal entity from the Council.  However, the Council will respond on their behalf and I can therefore provide the following information:

1. The total cost of the High Court injunction and any and all of the cost of legal advice and/or opinion given to RMBC from either within or without the organisation, in relation to the Serious Case Review mentioned in the article.

A high court injunction was not obtained.  The cost of the legal advice has not yet been calculated, therefore this information is not held by either the Council or the LSCB.

2. Please provide a specific itemised cost and date breakdown in relation to the legal costs requested in (1) above.

Please see response to (1) above.

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 £30.09 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, Riverside House, Main Street , Rotherham , S60 1AE .

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,
Sarah Corbett

Information Governance Manager
Information Governance Unit
Legal Services
Resources Directorate

Don Buxton replied thus:

Dear “Corbett, Sarah” <Sarah.Corbett@rotherham.gov.uk>

Thank you for your half-hearted attempt at answering my FOI

1. I will continue to press RMBC on this specific matter until I have been informed what specific legal costs RMBC has incurred as indicated in my original question

2. I also dispute your ridiculous spurious notional cost you attribute to my FOI enquiry and I require you to provide me with an itemised breakdown as to how your organisation has reached this fanciful notion

3. Surely someone at RMBC is “having a larf” when they can’t measure the legal costs that I enquired about, but some civic beancounter can assess my FOI at £30.09

Yours Sincerely,
Donald H. Buxton

Previously: Rotherham’s Disgrace – The questions begin?

The Day ‘Fly on the wall’ met the Queen and the Mayor came too!

I would like to tell you of an interesting day out I had, quite by accident, just the other day.

As you know by now, I can usually be seen hanging round the Town Hall most of the time, but lately have witnessed some pretty rum goings on at parish councils as well, I digress.

I had decided to spend the night in the Mayors car, it’s nice and cosy there and no spiders to worry about. I was awoken at a distinctly ungodly hour when the Mayor’s Attendant and Driver turned up early. We picked up the Mayor and Mayoress and their two guests and headed south, I was getting quite excited by now, this was well out of the ordinary. I soon got bored though, fell asleep by the time we had gone nearly 50 miles!

I only woke up when the party got out of the car, you’ll never guess where we were? Buckingham Palace!

I couldn’t resist following them in, they were at the Queens Garden Party! Some jolly this?

Endless photographs were taken for posterity and I was confident that this would make a splash in The Advertiser and a major good news story on the Mayor’s pages on the RMBC website.

For the time I was there I must say I enjoyed the food and especially drinking from the tiny splashes that result from sparkling wine, don’t think it was champagne though, like Darren used to supply, but never mind I got quite squiffy, don’t remember much after about a dozen! I fell asleep and only woke up the next day with a terrible hangover, once back in the Town Hall I felt quite satisfied by my accidental jolly along with the Mayor and Mayoress.

I kept checking RMBC’s website but nothing was mentioned there. Disappointment too, from the Advertiser. Zero, zilch was mentioned publicly, just what was going on?

This question got it’s answer when I bumped into a mate the other day, who usually hangs around in the press office. He told me, that they never draw attention to jollies like the trip to Buck House, because  the natives wouldn’t understand the selfless service that the Mayor, Mayoress and their two guests provided Rotherham citizens by going on their behalf. The drinking and eating were entirely selfless acts, he explained, as was meeting the Queen and tugging the forelock!

I had bumped into a Rotherham State Secret no less, or at least that was the way it was explained to me! That, and the express insistence that I never, ever, raised questions about the cost of, unmentionable in public, jollies like this. The penalty for indiscretion, the fly spray!

I went back to my usual haunt, terrified by the potential difficulties I was now in. Once I stopped shaking, I started to think and I got very angry!!

I couldn’t keep this to myself so I’ve shared it with you. I feel much better now that it’s off my chest, but I’m sure that fly spray dodging will be the order of the day on Monday, oh dear!

Fly on the wall

Don gets his response!

— On Fri, 25/5/12, FreedomofInformation <Freedomofinformation@rotherham.gov.uk> wrote:
From: FreedomofInformation <Freedomofinformation@rotherham.gov.uk>
Subject: FOI Request – 105
To: “DON BUXTON”
Date: Friday, 25 May, 2012, 14:04

Dear Mr. Buxton,

Freedom of Information Act 2000 – Request for Information – 105

Thank you for your request for information received on the 15th May 2012. Please find the information requested below.

I attach for your information a PDF response I received yesterday from Leeds City Council in relation to an FOI, part of which (see highlighted section below) relates to the use of the RMBC statutory civic vehicle, YM08DZP, used to convey RMBC Cllr Roger Stone and Wakefield MDC Cllr Olivia Marie Rowley to Manchester Airport and return on business which is totally unrelated to any specific duties directly connected to Rotherham MBC which are funded by Rotherham taxpayers.

Will Migration Yorkshire at Leeds City Council be reimbursing fuel costs and driver staff costs to Rotherham MBC for the use by RMBC Councillor Roger Stone of RMBC statutory vehicle, BMW saloon registration number YM08DZP used to convey him and Councillor Olivia Marie Rowley, Wakefield MDC to Manchester Airport on Migration Yorkshire business?

Yes. All costs will be reimbursed by Migration Yorkshire, Leeds City Council.

Please inform me of the following:

(a)    Has Rotherham MBC already requested reimbursement from Leeds City Council?

Yes

(b)    If not why not?

N/A

(c)    Please confirm the detailed itemised reimbursement cost which will be requested.

£150.00 plus VAT

(d)    If not, when will Rotherham MBC request reimbursement from Leeds City Council?

N/A

(e)    If Rotherham MBC has already requested reimbursement from Leeds City Council on what date was the request sent and on what date can Rotherham ratepayers expect that Rotherham MBC will receive reimbursement for the use of the RMBC statutory vehicle referred to?

The Invoice was sent on the 20th April 2012, Rotherham MBC requested reimbursement within 14 days of invoicing.    As of the 15th May, we still hadn’t received the payment from Leeds CC so they have exceeded the 14 days.

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 £71.10 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, Riverside House, Main Street , Rotherham , S60 1AE .

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,
Kyle Hopkins
Access to Information Assistant
Information Governance Unit
Legal Services
Resources Directorate
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

Don replied by return making the following points:

Dear chiefexecutive@rotherham.gov.uk

Thank you for your response to my questions in connection with Cllr Roger Stone’s use of the civic vehicle for non-RMBC personal use.

As you are very well aware, I did not request this information under Freedom of Information, and therefore I cannot understand at all why you have processed it as such.

I did however repeat my request for this information, and suffixed that request that if the information did not appear I would consider either a Formal Complaint to RMBC and/or a Freedom of Information Request to obtain the information if I thought that RMBC were engaging in dragging their heels.

I would like you to explain to me why therefore you have summarily decided to treat my simple request as an FOI and why there is the stupid spurious notional costing of £71.10. Leeds City Council made no such pretentious financial statements when they very professionally and willingly supplied me with information relating to Cllr Roger Stone’s trip.

I would appreciate a detailed costing from you or a subordinate which explains how your organisation is able to concoct such a ridiculous notional imaginary sum.

Will you be adding such a spurious notional sum to your subsequent requests to Leeds City Council for reimbursement of the costs of RMBC’s civic vehicle. If not, please explain to me why not.

Yours Sincerely,
Donald H. Buxton

Bulgarian Jolly – Don Buxton demands answers

From: DON BUXTON
Sent: 22 May 2012 09:12
To: Bedford, Andrew; ChiefExecutive
Subject: Fw: LEEDS CITY COUNCIL REIMBURSEMENT TO RMBC FOR CIVIC CAR USE

Dear Sirs,

I note with some profound concern that I have had neither the courtesy of an acknowledgement or a response from either of you, or any of your subordinates to my e-mail of one week ago, which I sent by e-mail on Tuesday, 15 May, 2012, 16:22 hrs.

Please inform me by return e-mail why I have not received one or the other?

Unless I receive, by the end of business today, either an acknowledgement or a response, I will consider submitting a Formal Complaint against your organisation, and also consider resorting to use of the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the information which I have reasonably requested.

Your lack of courtesy and response is in marked contrast to the very customer-friendly and business-like professional manner with which my enquiry to Leeds City Council was processed and dealt with.

For your information I am copying to you the text of my original e-mail of Tuesday, 15 May, 2012, 16:22 hrs.

Yours Sincerely,
Donald H Buxton

A response came by return, an apology no less:

On Tue, 22/5/12, ChiefExecutive <ChiefExecutive@rotherham.gov.uk> wrote:
From: ChiefExecutive <ChiefExecutive@rotherham.gov.uk>
Subject: RE: LEEDS CITY COUNCIL REIMBURSEMENT TO RMBC FOR CIVIC CAR USE
To: “DON BUXTON”
Date: Tuesday, 22 May, 2012, 9:21

Mr Buxton

Please accept my apologies for not acknowledging your email.

We are finalising the response and will send it to you by the end of the week.

Kind regards
Lesley Hatton
Personal Assistant
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

Don then responded thus:

Dear Ms Hatton,

Thank you for your exceedingly prompt response and acknowledgement.

Your apology on behalf of the Chief Executive for his lack of either acknowledgement or response is accepted without reservation and I look forward to receipt of the information requested within the timeline you have indicated.

Yours Sincerely,
Donald H. Buxton

Don Buxton probes further – Statutory Vehicle YM08 DZP

Dear chiefexecutive@rotherham.gov.uk

Further to the attached information earlier supplied in which your subordinate employee confirms that the black coloured BMW saloon YM08 DZP is a “statutory RMBC vehicle”, which is therefore no doubt funded by Rotherham community charge payers, I shall be grateful if you will kindly supply me with further statutory information as follows:

1. Please supply me with a copy/copies of the vehicle duty mileage and destination log or other such document/s by which this vehicle’s use is recorded for YM08 DZP as I wish to scrutinise the duties and destinations to which this vehicle was deployed between the following dates and times 0001 hrs Wednesday 29 February 2012 to 2359 hrs on Monday 12 March 2012.

2. Please also confirm whether an RMBC chauffeur/driver/employee was provided for the user of this vehicle between 0001 hrs Wednesday 29 February 2012 to 2359 hrs on Monday 12 March 2012.

Please supply the above information in electronic format.

Yours Sincerely,
Donald H. Buxton

Previously on Rotherham Politics: Battersby provides more answers. Have we the full picture yet?

Don Buxton has let us have a copy of the first response:

Dear Mr Battersby,

Thank you for your e-mail.

I, and many other active and empowered citizens across Rotherham, await your response with eager anticipation and much interest.

Yours Sincerely,
Donald H. Buxton

— On Thu, 15/3/12, Battersby, Karl <Karl.Battersby@rotherham.gov.uk> wrote:

From: Battersby, Karl <Karl.Battersby@rotherham.gov.uk>
Subject: RE: CAR PARKED ON FOOTPATH OUTSIDE TOWN HALL 2012.03.07
To: Don Buxton
Cc: “Kemp, Liz” <Liz.Kemp@rotherham.gov.uk>
Date: Thursday, 15 March, 2012, 17:53

Mr Buxton, I acknowledge receipt of the email on behalf of the Chief Executive. I will respond in due course on his behalf.

Regards
Karl Battersby
Strategic Director
Environment and Development Services
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

PRIVATE CAR PARKED ON FOOTPATH OUTSIDE TOWN HALL 2012.03.07

Dear chief executive,

Yesterday afternoon 2012.03.07 at 1545 hrs I unfortunately had occasion to visit Rotherham town centre in my own car on personal business.

I arrived in the area known as The Crofts opposite Rotherham Town Hall and paid the customary extortionate tax fee for the privilege of parking my car for one hour in the designated parking bay. As I left my car I noticed that there was a black coloured BMW saloon, registration no YM08 DZP, parked on the pedestrian paved area directly in front of the Town Hall.

I took a photo of the car which had no company logo, crest, sign, badge, display or other device to indicate that it was parked there on any type of official business. Neither did the vehicle have its hazard warning lights activated to warn pedestrians of its presence on the public footpath. Also the vehicle was not displaying any form of parking ticket like that which I, and other ordinary car drivers, are compelled by law to purchase and display on our vehicles.

When I returned to my car one hour later and left the area, the same BMW car was still parked there. The vehicle had not received any form of attached parking penalty notice despite there being a RMBC parking warden patrolling nearby and walking past the car.

I require you to explain the following to me:

1. By what particular specific legal act, instrument or statute is that particular personal vehicle, or any other, permitted to park in that location?

2. Who within RMBC, and in what official capacity, has authorised and permitted this, or any other personal vehicle, to park on the paved pedestrian area outside Rotherham Town Hall?

3. Is this particular vehicle issued to, or allocated to, or used almost exclusively by any particular RMBC Elected Member or Officer? And if so, who and in what capacity?

4. Do the owners of private vehicles such as this which park on the paved area outside Rotherham Town Hall have to declare “a financial benefit in kind” to the Inland Revenue as a consequence of avoiding the high cost of payment of borough car parking charges?

5. Please supply me with copies of any reports, documents, memos, letters or notes in which the issue of RMBC Elected Members and Officers being granted permission to park their private cars on the paved pedestrian area has been discussed.

6. Please supply me with a copy/copies of any written instructions issued to RMBC staff to ignore or overlook the parking of RMBC Elected Members and Officers private vehicles on the paved pedestrian area outside Rotherham Town Hall.

7. Have any verbal instructions been isued to RMBC staff to ignore or overlook the parking of RMBC Elected Members and Officers private vehicles on the paved pedestrian area outside Rotherham Town Hall.

8. Will you as Chief Executive be issuing any instructions to Elected Members, Officers and Staff of RMBC about the importance of them projecting a positive public image of responsible parking of their private vehicles and adhering to civic parking regulations within Rotherham town centre, and of not parking on the paved pedestrian area outlined above?

9. Has RMBC conducted any Formal Risk Assessments in relation to the parking of private motor cars on the paved pedestrian area outside Rotherham Town Hall and the hazards they make for blind or partially sighted pedestrians? If so, please supply such copies.

I look forward to your prompt, courteous and comprehensive reply to the above questions, Yours Sincerely,

Donald H. Buxton