Tuesday, 1 May 2012

I'll be back

Cooooooo-eeeeeeeee!!!!!!!! Have you missed me??????

As you may have noticed I have not been around much. As some of you know I have been involved with a secret project. Well actually, I had the chance of a secondment to small little Government Department called Her Majesty’s Treasury. It appeared that HMT had got into a bit of bother, like most other Departments, they had lost lots of experienced staff in recent restructuring. Things had got so bad at HMT that they had lost all expertise in replacing the toner cartridges to their antiquated printers and were desperate for my skills! Ironic really that the Department with all the money are still relying on the old workhorse which is the beloved HP Laserjet III(D).  This D is for Duplex printing for those who don’t know!

My secondment was timed to cover the busy period when the budget was made-up. Wowsers - those guys at HMT do get through a lot of paper every day. I was kept on my toes I can tell you. In the last few months I have had to change 3 toner cartridges. Luckily I had lots of help and would formally like to thank the ginger haired young lad with the funny voice –I think his name is Danny and assume he is on some sort of work experience from a National Park or some other small single function body.  I would also like to thank everyone for being so friendly but gosh you guys work hard – you should come to Eland House for a rest!... oh and finally the SpAds are different.. (almost) professional without the air of supercilious arrogance that I sadly I had been accustomed too.

I will hopefully be back at Eland House soon and will start making sure that Uncle Eric and his cronies are held to account (or at least ridicule). In the mean time I was intrigued to see that a few of my and others blogs and FoI requests relating to Opera Solution, Gardant Communications  and Nick Sheridan-Westlake made Private Eye and the LGC last month.

First mention of Opera Solutions and how dodgy research has been used in July 2011:

Next blog where questions are asked about meetings and emails between Nick Sheridan-Westlake and Nick Vaughan at Gardant Communications:

And finally when Mr Edward Rudolf asked about email communications between Gardant Communication and DCLG. This request was asked in September but not supplies until January – just enough time for Nick to delete his emails?!

I am sure this will not be the last of this. Ben Goldacre did the initial demolition job on Opera's work (linky) and this was then taken up expertly by Radio4's More or Less.... but comrades the real story is about poor Nick-Nick...so keep digging....

I'll be back.. sadly


Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Horse Power

Following on the revelation that Dave Cameron finally remembered  galloping along across the Chilterns on an old Met Police Horse, the question on everyone’s lips is has Uncle Eric Pickles donned a tight fitting pair of jodhpurs and taken a canter himself?

In the past Uncle Eric has talked about cyclists in “runner knickers” and a disturbing image of him riding  a Boris bike has stayed with me for far too long. Though  I can really imagine him donning the riding boots, white jodhpurs with riding helmet strapped under his chins and riding whip in hand – what I cannot conjure up is a picture of  the poor beast that would have to carry his load.

Poor Grant Shapps – he is more like a jockey – short in stature; not blessed with brains and having really bad teeth - oh and the squeaky voice. Last week I had the dubious pleasure of sharing the lift with him. The doors were just closing on the ground floor as he burst through sporting the usual smug smirk and air of self grandeur. I was tempted to ask him which floor he wanted and if he was the new temp in LG finance dept but thought it was best to totally ignore him – apart for swearing under my breath. I get the impression this irked him – he seems so desperate to be loved.

Talking of horsing around  -  I understand there are rumours that Uncle Eric’s Special Boyz were caught in some high jinks last week with the big man catching Giles trying to ride Nick – all without the requisite safety equipment but thankfully the whip was not required - just a bucket of cold water.

This random randy gallop through some bad jokes leads to my latest FoI request which relates to DCLG spending:


Dear Chums

After the Chief Executive of Wandsworth defied anyone to find anything interesting in the DCLG expenditure, I sat down in my armchair to face this auditing challenge.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered in December that DCLG spent £18,800 on Ministerial Car. That is more than most hard pressed families spend on a car in 5 years or more, including purchase, tax and servicing. What are the Ministers doing – forgetting where they have parked them and just buying a new one?

Please can I request a breakdown of how this money has been spent? (and assuming you continue to declare my request vexatious I hope someone else asks this question)

Vroom Vroom

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Bright or wrong

Wandsworth council is often referred to as the flagship conservative council. It has often been praised by Uncle Eric, who we all know is a fan of flags (-unsure about ships though) and he is big big fan of sycophants.

Wandsworth has always kept council tax low; not moaned about its (very generous) settlement and been a vocal supporter of Tory local government policy. In recent years though, Wandsworth has described itself as the ‘Brighter Borough’. I understand this has nothing to do with its southern latitude - there really are civilised councils further south of The River. Neither is it connected to the rumour that Wandsworth’s leaders basks in the warming sunlight that they believe radiates from the Secretary of State’s super massive blackhole of a backside - a suggestion which even Prof Brian Cox would not describe as ‘amazing and beautiful’.

I understand it is connected to the spurious claim that is has the highest percentage of graduates in its population. This irks its northern neighbour who may now decide call themselves ‘The filthy rich borough’ and another Sarf London neighbour who may go with the more simple – ‘The filthy borough’.

All the jazz about how bright Wandsworth is has been inspired from a recent blog by the Chief Executive of Wandsworth. Is he and the council as really as bright as they say? Below is my latest FoI request:

Dear Chums,

Paul Martin the Chief Executive of Wandsworth ‘The Brighter Borough’ Council had a few things to say about the value of Uncle Eric’s diktat that all council publish expenditure data. (See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/public-leaders-network/blog/2012/feb/20/paul-martin-wandsworth-council-open-initiative). In his blog piece he said:

“It's a huge amount of information, but without analysis and comparisons raw numbers are meaningless. To illustrate the point, I have just looked at the Department for Communities and Local Government web pages on spending over £500. I defy anyone to discover anything useful from this process.”

Given that Wandsworth Council have been a loyal and fervent supporter of the Conservative party this criticism must hurt Uncle Eric.
Has DCLG conducted any research that they are prepared to share that provides evidence that there is tangible value in councils and DCLG publishing this bumf and clogging up the interweb? If so we can conclude the Brighter Borough is now a little dimmer? Or if no evidence exists, do we know if Paul Martin is suggesting Eric Pickles is a bit of a dunce?

Yours intellectually challenged

Friday, 10 February 2012

We Gotta Pray

Dearly beloved we gather today for the 15025th meeting of Barchester Council. Before we move on the substantive agenda items on closing down council services due to funding cuts; responding to Uncle Eric’s unique flavour of localism and doing the stuff we have been elected to do, please bow your heads and join me in prayer

Lord Eric, in your mercy, hear our prayers.
We pray that with your infinite wisdom you see your cuts are not fair and are focussed on the poor and needy. We pray that you are able to be gracious and help those that need help.

We pray that you review the inequity within the local government settlement and the arbitrary metric of the revenue spending power.

We pray that you do not turn a blind eye to the beggar (even if it is in the guise of a once proud city proffering a begging bowl). We pray that you do not mock their affliction but stretch out a charitable hand to offer succour.

We pray that you treat all with respect. We pray that you teach humility and humanity to your special boyz in the hope that they can turn away from the dark side.

We pray that you drop your unhealthy obsession with bins and all that is unclean. We pray that you allow councils to do the job they there to do without your constant interference. 
We pray for localism.

We pray that you find it within yourself to praise councils not matter what their colour – be they blue, orange or red.

We pray that you learn to love your enemy as your friend.

And we pray your days at DCLG are numbered and you have the chance to move to DEFRA.

Lord Eric, in your mercy, hear our prayers


Friday, 3 February 2012

Rubbish Puzzle

Rumours that I have gone Upto(w)n are not true.  Let me tell you if Nick comes to my desk and tries to stick his grubby hands in my drawers, looking for incriminating evidence, he will go away an unhappy lad. In fact he would not only leave empty handed but embarrassed and feeling even more inadequate that he currently does. You have been warned Nick – stay away from my dungeon.

Here is my latest rubbish FoI request:

Dear Chums

I was excited today to read about Uncle Eric’s kind generous gesture to councils that will allow them move away from inefficient fortnightly bin collection and return to weekly collection. I know there are some cynics who say the £250million which was miraculously found had been top sliced out of the settlement but I cannot believe Uncle Eric would be so scurrilous – I would not be surprised if this new money is coming directly from his own pocket, perhaps with help from the odd dodgy expense claim for a second home. [ - a joke my lawyer  reminds me].

In the press release today Uncle Eric says

“..barmy bin rules have made putting out your rubbish more complicated than solving a Rubik's cube.”

Is this really the case?  Can I ask what evidence he has to make this bizarre comparison? Which of these two statements apply to the Secretary of State. Either,

a)      he is a genius and finds solving the Rubik’s Cube so trivial that any other task, no matter how simple, would be more difficult than tackling the cube?


b)      is he so utterly stupid that putting the bins out is really a task which baffles him so much?

I know which of these two possibilities I would put £250 million on.

Yours puzzled