Final questions answered?

Don Buxton got his final response:

— On Wed, 30/5/12, Battersby, Karl <Karl.Battersby@rotherham.gov.uk> wrote:

From: Battersby, Karl <Karl.Battersby@rotherham.gov.uk>
Subject: RE: FOI Request – 105
To: donbuxton
Cc: “Corbett, Sarah” <Sarah.Corbett@rotherham.gov.uk>, “Pike, Christine” <Christine.Pike@rotherham.gov.uk>, “Kemp, Liz” <Liz.Kemp@rotherham.gov.uk>
Date: Wednesday, 30 May, 2012, 13:45

Mr Buxton, I write in response to your latest email. Apologies, but I thought I had answered point one. I enclose a copy of the cost sheet that was used in calculating the cost of responding to your FOI of the 15th May. I hold no further information on this matter.

In relation to your second point, the answer is no. I did not answer this point, as I thought that this was a rhetorical question. My response would still have notionally cost the same, as I spent time drafting the response and checking the ICO advice. Responding to this correspondence clearly costs time, and therefore money.

I think that we have now exhausted this issue, and I consider the matter closed.

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

Don Buxton responded thus:

Dear Battersby, Karl Karl.Battersby@rotherham.gov.uk  et-al,

Your apology is very publicly noted as indeed is your assumption that part of my letter was “rhetorical”. As you are now no doubt very aware it has proved both embarrassing and expensive for you to yet again make assumptions.

I note with interest that you will not be including further costings to Leeds City Council in relation to their failure to reimburse the Rotherham taxpayers, via RMBC, for the Leader’s profligate use of the civic vehicle for non-RMBC use.

Clearly any further requests to Leeds City Council for payment don’t attract any cost from RMBC in their myopic jumbled-up approach to civic finance. RMBC seems to have developed a highly selective approach to those issues which it decides cost something and those politically embarrassing issues which it wishes to bury and decides don’t cost anything.

Your notional spurious costings are entirely rejected by me, and I would suggest and advise that you consider that it is the fact that Cllr Roger Stone’s non-RMBC use of the civic vehicle which created the cost to the town’s ratepayers in the first place. Happily this was brought to my attention by a strategic friend within Town Hall Towers.

I now choose to end this matter as I can no longer be bothered to spend my time and money exchanging communications with you.

Yours Sincerely,

Donald H. Buxton

Questions that went unanswered?

Don Buxton received this response:

— On Mon, 28/5/12, Battersby, Karl <Karl.Battersby@rotherham.gov.uk> wrote:
From: Battersby, Karl <Karl.Battersby@rotherham.gov.uk>
Subject: RE: FOI Request – 105
To: “DON BUXTON”
Cc: “Kemp, Liz” <Liz.Kemp@rotherham.gov.uk>
Date: Monday, 28 May, 2012, 14:43

Mr Buxton, I write in response to your request on behalf of the Chief Executive.

In terms of the first issue, advice from the Information Commissioners Office is that for a request to be valid under the Freedom of Information Act it must be in writing, but requesters do not have to mention the Act or direct their request to a designated member of staff. We should therefore treat every request for information as an FOI request.

In terms of the cost, we use a cost calculator based on the amount of time taken to find the information and deal with the request. This includes the time taken to log in the request, retrieve the information,  and subsequently respond. We do not make a charge ( although the regulations allow a charge to be levied), but we do show what it has cost to respond. The regulations state that:

“ A public authority can charge for the time taken by its staff on the activities included in communicating the information. Regulation 7(5) indicates that staff time is to be charged at the flat rate of £25 per hour, irrespective of whether a higher rate is actually incurred by internal staff or charged by external contractor staff”.

We use this regulation as the basis for communicating what it has cost to respond to the request for information. In this instance, the cost to the authority in responding to this request has been £12.50.

Regards.

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

Still dissatisfied, Don replied thus:

Dear chiefexecutive@rotherham.gov.uk

In response to the latest e-mail from your subordinate employee I note that there has been a complete failure by RMBC to answer these two points –

(a) – 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.

(b) – 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.

I also note the pedantic nature of your response which alleges the further spurious notional cost of £12.50.

To quote a previous Chief Executive of RMBC, the e-mail was read, but not read thoroughly enough. Perhaps if it had been read thoroughly enough then you could have saved £12.50 instead of incurring it.

I have costed my time at 0% in relation to my request to obtain statutory information held by RMBC, and as such will not be making a request for payment or reimbursement to RMBC.

This has been part of my civic duty as an active and empowered citizen who wishes to scrutinise and challenge the costs of activities of those who are elected to discharge public duties on behalf of Rotherham citizens.

I hope to have the courtesy of a reply to my two unanswered points.

Yours Sincerely,

Donald H. Buxton

Don’t miss Trambuster’s comment, which reveals the amazing and outrageous deception at the heart of Karl Battersby’s reply! Karl Battersby should learn that Rothpol’s contributors and readers are neither fools or mushrooms!

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

Bulgarian jolly raises more important questions?

From: DON BUXTON
Sent: 15 May 2012
To: Chief Executive

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?

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?

(b) if not why not?

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

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

(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?

I look forward to your prompt and comprehensive response.

Yours Sincerely,

Donald H Buxton

Four Answers Duly Arrive!

First of all a reminder of the questions posed by Don Buxton:

1. What was the cost of Cllr Roger Stone’s air travel and accommodation costs? Please supply an itemised breakdown, including any drinks, meals, supplementaries etc.
2. Please provide copies of any hospitality declarations made by Cllr Roger Stone in relation to this particular visit.
3. Please provide specific details of the accommodation venue, and specific details of the reason for the visit, and any post-visit reports relating to the visit on which Cllr Roger Stone was engaged.
4. Will Migration Yorkshire at Leeds City Council be reimbursing fuel costs and driver staff costs to Rotherham MBC for the use by RMBC Cllr Roger Stone of RMBC statutory vehicle, BMW saloon registration number YM08DZP used to convey him and Cllr Olivia Marie Rowley, Wakefield MDC to Manchester Airport on Migration Yorkshire business? And if not please explain why not?

View the response in it’s original pfd format click here.

Customer Access and Performance
Leeds City Council
West Gate
6 Grace Street
Leeds
LS1 2RP
By email
Contact name: Victoria Ashwood
Telephone: (0113) 376 0086
Minicom: 0113 222 4410
Fax: (0113) 245 6931
Email: csu.dpfoi@leeds.gov.uk
Reference: 7761
Date:14th May 2012

Dear Mr Buxton,
I am writing regarding your request for information, which I received on the 18th of April.
For background information: Migration Yorkshire is the Yorkshire and Humber regional migration partnership and is hosted by Leeds City Council. Migration Yorkshire works with national, regional and local partners to ensure that the region can deal with, and benefit from, migration. It is funded by a variety of external sources, including UKBA, local authorities in Yorkshire & the Humber region, and various EU funding streams.
Our comments in relation to your request are as follows:
1. What was the cost of Councillor Roger Stone’s air travel and accommodation costs? Please supply an itemised breakdown, including any drinks, meals, supplementary etc
Air travel – £178.66
Easyjet – Manchester airport to Sofia return (12/03/12 and 15/03/12) – £126.56
Bulgaria air – Sofia to Varna return (12/03/12 and 14/03/12) – £52.10
Accommodation – £161.31
Graffiti Hotel, Varna (12/03/12 and 13/03/12), 115.60 euro (£98.02 )
Metropolitan Hotel, Sofia (14/03/12)– £63.29
Subsistence – £30.13
13/03/2012 – drink – £1.43
14/03/2012 – bus to event/school – £12.72
14/03/2012 – meal – £14.25
15/03/2012 – drink – £1.73
Total cost – £370.10
Migration Yorkshire (Leeds City Council) have met the above costs and will also be paying for the costs for the travel to Manchester airport and back when the final invoice is received.
2. Please provide copies of any hospitality declarations made by Councillor Roger Stone in relation to this particular visit.
There were no hospitality declarations made by Councillor Roger Stone to Migration Yorkshire. We would not expect to receive a declaration from another authority.
3. Please provide specific details of the accommodation venue, and specific details of the reason for the visit, and any post-visit reports relating to the visit on which Councillor Roger Stone was engaged.
Accommodation venue
Councillor Roger Stone stayed in the Graffiti hotel, Varna on recommendation from Bulgarian project partners. http://graffithotel.com/en/hotel/index/hotel_identity/
Councillor Roger Stone stayed in Metropolitan hotel, Sofia on the way back. This hotel was recommended by Bulgarian project partners. http://metropolitanhotelsofia.com
Reasons for the visit
The reason for the visit was for Local Authorities in the Yorkshire and Humber region to work in partnership and learn about experiences of working with Roma from regional and local governments in Bulgaria. This is part of Migration Yorkshire’s ‘Roma SOURCE’ project.
Post-visit reports
No specific post-visit reports have been produced
4. 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? And if not please explain why not.
All costs will be reimbursed by Migration Yorkshire, Leeds City Council.
If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.
If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision, you should write to:
Freepost RLZR-ELTX-RUEH
Leeds City Council
PO Box 657
LS1 9BS
If you are not satisfied with the outcome of your complaint, you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for a decision. Generally the ICO cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted the complaints procedure provided by Leeds City Council.
The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information Commissioner’s Office Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.
Yours sincerely,
Victoria Ashwood
Data Protection and Freedom of Information Practitioner,
Customer Access and Performance,
Leeds City Council

Don Buxton acknowledges:

Dear CSU.DPFOI@leeds.gov.uk

Please accept my sincere thanks for your comprehensive and prompt response to my legitimate FOI enquiry.

Your obvious transparency in this matter is to be commended and is an exemplar to my own authority, RMBC, who are sometimes quite disappointingly reluctant to be as transparent and helpful as you have quite clearly been to me.

As a citizen, resident and taxpayer of Rotherham I am particularly heartened to learn that RMBC will be reimbursed for the use of the RMBC civic vehicle used to convey RMBC Cllr Roger Stone and Wakefield Cllr Olivia Rowley to Manchester Airport and back on non-RMBC related business.

Yours Sincerely,

Donald H Buxton

Leeds City Council clearly has a far more open approach than our home town council when it comes to getting the truth out of them!

Rothpol is also reminded of the difference of approach taken when Councillors are caught watching pornography on council computers! Leeds Labour Party expelled the miscreant! Rotherham’s response when three Labour Councillors were caught doing the same thing? Zilch! Zero! Nothing! Except for the inevitable cover-up! (Not much of a cover-up if we found out!)

Thanks, go to Don Buxton, for making this information available to Rotherham Politics readers. An indefatigable seeker of truth, indeed!

Eight interesting answers – finally arrive!

Dear Active and Empowered Rotherham Citizens,

At last I have a reply from Town Hall Towers …

I thought you would all be happy to know that your tax receipts went towards taking Da Deer Leedah and Cllr Olivia Marie Rowley on a jolly to Bulgaria on behalf of Migration Yorkshire at Leeds City Council.

You couldn’t make it up. They wriggled, they squiggled, they jiggled, they tiggled, but eventually they knew that the truth would have to see the light of day.

So poor old Rotherham Borough ratepayers have financed, until we get the dosh back from Migration Yorkshire at Leeds City Council, this totally unnecessary and frivolous civic junket. Yep, clearly there’s bigger problems in Bulgaria to solve than we have in our once great little Borough.

I’m gonna remember this come the May elections, and maybe Da Rovrum Laybah Grooip might get an unpleasant voter response. Who knows? It would serve em jolly well right.

Watch your fronts …

Kind Regards,
Don

On Wed, 18/4/12, FreedomofInformation <Freedomofinformation@rotherham.gov.uk> wrote:

From: FreedomofInformation <Freedomofinformation@rotherham.gov.uk>
Subject: Response to Freedom of Information request
To: Don Buxton
Date: Wednesday, 18 April, 2012, 12:35

Dear Mr. Buxton,

Freedom of Information Act 2000 – Request for Information 881

I refer to your request for information dated 25th March relating to the car mileage log for RMBC statutory vehicle, BMW saloon registration number YM08DZP.  Please find our response below.

Log Entry No 19723 – 12.03.2012

This entry shows the vehicle was deployed from its depot at 0330 hrs to Kilnhurst (where I believe Cllr Stone lives) to pick up the Leader, Cllr Stone, and then onto 160 Agbrigg Road, Wakefield WF1 5BY to collect Cllr Olivia Marie Rowley, of Wakefield MBC, and then onto Manchester Airport, returning back to its depot at 0730 hrs.

Question 1 – Who within RMBC, and in what function, authorised and approved the RMBC vehicle to deploy to another MBC area to collect Cllr Olivia Marie Rowley, of Wakefield MBC?

Ø      Councillor Roger Stone, the Leader of the Council.

Question 2 – Will RMBC be seeking to recover partial fuel costs reimbursement and driver staff costs reimbursement from Wakefield MBC? And if not, please explain why not.

Ø      Reimbursement will be sought from the organiser of the journey, Migration Yorkshire at Leeds City Council.

Question 3 – Is it standard operating practice for an RMBC statutory vehicle, paid for and provided by Rotherham taxpayers for the use of RMBC Elected Members and/or Officers, to be at the disposal of other MBC Elected Members and/or Officers in other Authorities?

Ø      Where considered appropriate such vehicles may be used in this way on official business and expenses reimbursed as appropriate.

Question 4 – Please provide specific details of the flight destination, flight number, reason for air travel, accommodation venue, and specific details of the nature of the visit on which Cllr Roger Stone was engaged.

Ø      Flight ZZ1931 from Manchester to Sofia , Bulgaria .

Ø      Flight FB 973 from Sofia to Varna , Bulgaria .

Ø      Journey taken on behalf of Migration Yorkshire, Leeds City Council.

Question 5 – What was the cost of Cllr Roger Stone’s air travel and accommodation costs? Please supply an itemised breakdown, including any drinks, meals, supplementaries etc.

Ø      This information is not held, as neither was booked or paid for by Rotherham MBC.

Question 6 – Did RMBC, via its ratepayers, pay for the costs of Cllr Stone’s air travel and accommodation costs?

Ø      No.

Question 7 – Did RMBC, via its ratepayers, pay for the costs of Wakefield MBC Cllr Olivia Marie Rowley’s air travel and accommodation costs?

Ø      No.

Question 8 – Please provide copies of any hospitality declarations by Cllr Roger Stone in relation to this particular visit.

Ø      Councillor Stone undertook this engagement in his capacity as Vice Chair of Local Government Yorkshire and the Humber , on behalf of Migration Yorkshire, and not as Leader of Rotherham MBC.

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 £23.89 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,

Christine Hotson
Access to Information Officer
Information Governance Unit

Legal Services, 5th Floor, Riverside House

Resources Directorate
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council