Thursday, 30 December 2010

Cheese and the the missing expenditure

I have been a busy boy. Probably spending too much time in the armchair. The latest FoI request has be sent on its merry way to Uncle Eric via the wonderful What Do They Know (WDTK Details of request are below:

psst ..the real story here is sneaky Uncle Eric paid the photographer over £500 for the official snaps but somehow managed to exclude this in the service expenditure spreadsheets that he is keen for DCLG to publish. Thankfully this Private in the army of armchair auditors is trained in counter surveillance. Also I noticed some intriguing request from James Bond on WDTK. Surely Uncle Eric stands no chance against 007.

Keep 'em peeled comrades.


Dear Chums

As we fast approach the New Year I intend to deploy my limited
creative skills on making a calendar to celebrate a cheery and
efficient 2011. I know there is going to be a lot of pain and it
isn't going to be easy. I know we are all in it together etc etc. I
just want something to brighten my mornings, as I cry into my value
brand cornflakes with the fearful dawning realisation that my non
job as Assistant Toner Cartridge Warmer is soon to be deleted, So
for each month I intend to include a picture of one of my favourite
ministers. These will include Theresa May - sporting a fetching
pair of leopard print wellies (go on guess which month she will
be?..Yes, May!), William Hague will be handsomely mounted in June,
appearing with his stylish baseball cap - but sans special advisor,
after some judicious cropping. And obviously our gracious leader,
Dave and his fragrant wife will be included to bring joy to a
depressing winter month ( Samcamber surely!).

Alas, do not fret Uncle Eric, you have not been forgotten. My twins
(Eric and Erica if you must know) are particularly keen to get a
picture of you and your chummy ministers to adorn a month each.
Little Eric is actually your biggest littlest or littlest biggest
fan, I tell him if he eats up all his cake he will one day be a
great man like you. Erica on the other hand wants to be a pole

Can you please provide me with the following information?

1) Please supply copies of the official minister photographs or
provide links to where the images can be downloaded.

2) Provide details of the photographer who took the photographs.

3) Provide a copy of the invitation to tender for the photograph

4) Provide the TOTAL expenditure for all photographs.

And finally if the total expenditure on photographs was over £500,
can you please explain why it has been excluded from the service
expenditure spreadsheets you are so keen to promote? After all, we
would not want people accusing you of not being transparent- or for
you to start a bright New Year by enraging the army of armchair

Yours watching the birdie,


Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Winterval

The work of an armchair auditor never ends. This year I was even forced into action on Christmas Day. Thankfully the Texaco garage at then end of the road was open so I managed to nip out get the missus and bin-lids some presents before lunch.

Merry Christmas to (almost) everyone


25 December 2010

Dear chums

Merry Winterval to you all!!

The toil of an armchair auditor never ends and on this most
Christian of Christian festivals I find I can not tear myself away
from holding you to account. Who would have thought armchair
auditing could develop into such a riveting sport.

Firstly, may I can congratulate Uncle Eric and his cast of merry
men for an entertaining year. Who would have thought you could have
produced so many jokes in such a short time, especially considering
the crisis we are all in. If I was of a more serious disposition I
would have grave concerns but as I enjoy a bit as fun as much as
the next fool,I say carry on Uncle Eric. It is better than repeats
of Laurel and Hardy.

So today we celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus. I hope the vast
majority for the mighty DCLG workforce are taking a well earned
break and celebrating the day in the bosom of their christian hard
working families...... but are they all.

Can you provide the number of staff for the following questions:

1) Number of DCLG staff who are non-Christian?
2) How many staff are godless?
3) How many staff do not believe in Father Christmas?
4) How may staff are officially working on Christmas day?

Now it is time for me to tuck into a big juicy bird (insert your
own joke if necessary). To be honest I thought by now I may be
completely sick of turkeys after having to deal with you lot but
the sherry has gone to my head. So Uncle Eric, please have a good
Christmas. Eat, drink and be merry and then eat some more. And
promise that next year you will not to be such a Scrooge and stop
picking on the poor people.

Love you all

Thursday, 23 December 2010

It is written in the stars...

Here is my latest missive to the Department for Communities and Local Government. I am already looking forward to their reply. Gosh, this armchair auditing is hard work. Thankfully it can be done from the comfort of a cosy armchair...

Where the action takes place.

Dear Chums,

Following on from Sherry Eastpond's marvellous and inquisitive FoI
request pertaining to county flags proudly flying above Eland
House, I found myself perusing the press release for the launch of
this wonderful initiative:

As usual there are the wise words from Uncle Eric, covering
tradition, ceremony and pride. Speaking from personal experience,
every morning when I pass the flagpole I feel a stirring. When I
bound up to my desk I am inspired, I am ready to go the extra mile,
to give my all, to give 110% as our PM has shown is possible (gowd
knows what would have happened if he had reduced his output to more
human 100% at the recent World Cup bid?).

Anyhow, further down the press release I came across this:
Celebrity astrologer and historian Russell Grant said:

"Our counties are over a thousand years old and are steeped in
history. They give us a sense of identity, of community, and great
pride in where we live. I am delighted that they are being
recognised in this way."

Seriously did DCLG really ask cuddly celebrity astrologer Russell
Grant for his view?

I know recently the current administration has done away with
boring stuffy stuff like unnecessary research and evidence, but
this really takes the chocolate biscuit that you are consulting
with a mystic? Whatever next, will Mystic Meg be bought in to help
with forecasting the local government settlement, will Hilda Ogden
be contracted to read Uncle Eric's tea leaves to help with the
housing strategy?

Can you please answers to the following questions:

1) Who contacted Russell Grant (for his wonderfully insightful
2) How much was Russell Grant paid for his troubles?
3) Provide any evidence you have that "our counties are over 1000
years old"?
3) and finally, why the heck is a celebrity astrologer described as
an historian?

Seriously, I am almost speechless for once, but thankfully I can
just about bash this out.

Beware Uranus is ascendant in Aries, there could be trouble


Twiiter: @DerekTickles

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Fancy a dry sherry?

Three cheers for Sherry Eastpond's delightful request:

I raise a glass to you and your wonderful name

Keep the flag flying!!


Sherry Eastpond

20 December 2010

Dear Mr Pickles

I was in my local library the other day looking for a book about
flags... but it didn't have one!

When I enquired when they might be able to get one in, I was told
by the very polite librarian that there were such big cut backs
that they wouldn't be getting many new books at all any time soon.
In fact, she said it was looking quite likely that the library will
close in he near future. I was devastated. I love that library.
It's such a huge shame because I love a good book and learning new
things enriches you, don't you think?

So... I thought I would look into it a bit more, which led me to
you. Imagine my surprise when I saw that you have an interest in
flags too! But wait a minute, I keep hearing that money's tight...
I read (I like to read) that you said it's down to the people who
used to run the country. But then I saw you're flying flags above
your lovely big building in Victoria! But that can't be right,
didn't you say it was the other people that spent all the money on
things other than front line services (like lovely libraries) that
meant I can't get my book on flags!

I found myself wondering how very much it must cost to fly all
those different flags - a different one every week (as long as it's
a county!?). Why only counties? Are city flags bad? It can't be a
just history thing. Cities aren't new after all!

So... I wonder My Pickles.

1. How much does it cost to fly a different flag over Eland House
every week? Please include - your staff making arrangements to get
the flags. The cost to cash strapped councils (by each one) to send
you the flag (whether they've had to have them made, staff costs,
post/shipping costs), costs to hoist said flags. Costs to promote
each lag in press releases and on your website (staff and any other
costs). I'm sure you have to return them too... how much does that
cost as well please? The book I was after only costs £5.49. I'll be
really interested to know how many books we could have bought for
with what you've spent.

2. The county flag issue is an interesting one. Could you provide
all documentation (emails, letters, meeting times and any minutes
of said meetings) relating to why you decided to fly flags, all
correspondence with said counties, why only counties, why not other
areas and why in the order they are being flown. How many counties
are there compared to other types of council area (single tier -
e.g. metropolital, london borough, unitaries)? Did you have to buy
any new flags - if so how much did these cost you (well, me

3. How high is the flag pole on Eland house (from the ground). It
seems very high. I couldn't really make out the flag that was
flying anyway when I walked by the other day.

4. I would also like the forward plan for each future flag to be

5. It made me wonder if counties are somehow special to you. So I
did more research in my local library. It turns out (can you
believe it!) that many counties (well, their councils) are
conservative run!!! Because I only have access to my local
libraries computers, and there's a big queue to use these days
(because there's less of them, and some are broken), I can't find
all the information I need easily. Can you therefore provide me
with a complete list of the political control of each council area
you've flown a flag for to date and all the future ones too.

6. But wait, if there does turn out to be some kind of political
relationship between flags and conservative council area, I'm sure
these flags can't be arranged by civic servants. They're
non-political aren't they? Isn't that what the civil service code
says? Are they allowed to do something so overtly political?
Doesn't it undermine the credibility of these hard working public

I look forward to your reply.

Yours faithfully,

Sherry Eastpond

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Your Country Needs You?

Why the barrage of FoI request to Department of Communities and Local Government? After all they seem to be run by a lovely group of chaps. A bit short of sense perhaps but surely their hearts are in the right place.

My reasons are simple. I love Eric, he fascinates me. In some respect we are very similar. We both have a lovely sense of humour, like a good curry, enjoy a slice (or two) of cake. I too am  rotund and equally interesting, so much so that I am have trouble with the buttons on my waistcost - I can only fasten-eight. See what I mean about the humour?

I have listened to talk of The Big Society. I have listened to the rhetoric about increasing transparency and accountability. I have heard Uncle Eric shout out 'localism!, localism!, localism!". And I have decided I can stand it no longer. I too am prepared to do my bit for the country. So my friends, I have decided to sit back down. Yes, sit back down in my comfy armchair and join the ever growing army of armchair auditors.

Rise up and sit down comrades. Rise up and challenge and hold them all to account. And try to have a smidgen or fun when you are doing it because I suspect that auditing is a bit boring really.

Your fiend and mine,


FoI request #9 - Money's to tight to mention

Derek Tickles

18 December 2010

Seasonal salutations chums,

Following Uncle Eric’s ‘fair’ and ‘progressive’ local government
settlement there has been the usual bleatings from the usual
suspects. How dare councils such as Liverpool, Hackney and
Manchester suggest that the most deprived have been hit hardest?
They have been receiving massive government ‘hand outs’ for years
and shown such little gratitude. Whereas, the poor and needy people
of Richmond, Surrey and Windsor and Maidenhead are seeing cuts as
well. I am sure many are asking where their next roast swan will
come from but we do not hear them moaning.

I am sure that DCLG conducted a phenomenal amount of research to
support the statements on the ‘fair’ and ‘progressive’ settlement.
Can you please supply me with the quantitative evidence? I am
particularly interested in analysis that explored the relationship
between deprivation and formula grant.

I assume multiple regression models and ANOVA tests were produced
as well as other statistical jiggery-pokery. Can you please supply
the outputs from these models. Please supply the sig level,
p-value, r-sq, F-value and anything else that you think will help.
To be honest it will just be a load of squiggles to me but it will
make me feel better.

Come on let’s put these baseless accusations to rest. Good lord, do
people think that important decisions at DCLG are being made by
Laurel and Hardy?

Yours fiscally,
Derek Tickles

PS The Laurel and Hardy question is not part of the FoI request.

FoI request #7 - Mr Westlake and councillor duties

Derek Tickles

3 November 2010

Dear Department for Communities and Local Government,

I understand that Mr Westlake is employed as a special advisor by
Eric Pickles. I also understand that Nick currently serves as a
councillor for Guildford Borough Council.

Can you please inform me if Mr Westlake receives time off from his
CLG duties to pursue his hobby has a councillor?

Yours in folly,

Derek Tickles

FoI request #7 Sleeping on the job

Derek Tickles

12 December 2010

Dear Chums

I recently read that poor old multi millionaire Grant Shapps, the
housing minister, has been forced to sleep in his House of Commons

It appears that after a hard day doing whatever his business is, he
is too tired to make the 20 mile journey home to his mansion near
Watford. I would have thought he could have a snooze in the back of
his luxury ministerial car as he is whizzed home in no time.
Alternatively, if Victoria Street could be closed for a few minutes
he could fly home in his private Piper Saratoga jet and be home
tucked up in bed in no time so that he is as fresh as a daisy the
next day.

Mr Shapps told The Sunday Telegraph: "It's not actually a bad place
to sleep if it wasn't for the clock chiming every 15 minutes but I
am not complaining about my conditions because nobody forces you to
be an MP or a minister."

Mr Shapps statement got me worried whether he will be able to give
110 per cent (as the PM gave at the recent world cup bid) and will
be able to fully concentrate on his job. Can he even give a lowly
100 per cent, I question?

Can you please inform me what provision is given to allow Ministers
and staff to kip over in Eland House?

1. How many bed are installed (single, double, folding and

2. Are fresh sheets, duvets and pyjamas supplied or do staff have
to provide their own?

If there is currently no provision for staff to kip over after a
hard days work (and also save a few quid on rent) has any
consideration been given to allow staff to use the office after
hours as a doss-house?

Yours with nacrolepsy

Derek Tickles

FoI request #6 - The pen is mightier than the sword

Derek Tickles

10 December 2010

Dear Chums

Startling - That is the word that sprung to mind when I read about
the incredible profligacy at Leicester Council as described is
beautiful prose on the Conservative Home website

The local Conservative opposition leader (Cllr Ross Grant) has
exposed that the Labour run council has spent a massive £7000
pounds on pens. Yes that is correct pens! They even have 30
different types of pens – I didn’t even know there were that many
different ones but I suppose they may count different colour ones
but the report didn’t mention that - I guess it isn’t important

Anyway the key thing is that Leicester Council have spent loads of
our money on pens, this is more than 40 pence per member of staff a
year! Good lord what are they doing with them all?

My request to DCLG is can you please supply me with details of your
expenditure on pens in the latest financial year? Can you also
please supply details of the type and model of pens purchased?

By the way, I really can’t see why staff cannot bring their own
pens to work, when I was school I did and woe betide anyone who

Look after the pens and pounds will look after themselves,

Derek Tickles

FoI request #6 - A Winter's Tale

Derek Tickles

9 December 2010

Dear Chums,

I share Eric Pickles concerns regarding the necessity to call time
on the pagan assault on our most christian of christian festivals.
It really is 'snow' joke.

Cutting the rotund and jocular figure that I do, I fear these
changes may see my regular seasonal employment as Father Christmas
under threat,leaving me little time to cut down on the necessary
pies, puddings and Victoria Sponge to attain a jack frost physique.

In order that I may add my weight to Mr Pickles efforts, please can
CLG supply details of the research on which his campaign is based.
I would also request a list of the Councils CLG have identified in
2010 who have removed or intended to remove the word Christmas form
their festivities and replaced it with Winterval, Lumnious, Winter
Lights, Festivus, Bauble-icious, Ice To See You, to see you ice,
Turkey Twizzle or any other un-christian alternative nomenclature.

I would also like information on the financial and other resources
rightly invested by CLG to write , promote, deal with enquiries (eg
press and FOI) on, this timely, original and relevant seasonal

Yule Sincerely,

Derek Tickles

FoI request #5 - Free curry!!

Derek Tickles

26 November 2010

Dearest Chums

Our Eric and I seem to share a number of traits. We both have fine
and well developed sense of humour. Eric’s recent “Britain's curry
industry is second to naan” gag was particularly hilarious I nearly
choked on my Victoria sponge cake when I first heard it.

We also seem to share a passion for curry. We both seem to be like
naughty clocks and always going back 4 seconds. I especially love a
curry that has been prepared with tandoor oven care! I’m sure Eric
does too.

Earlier this week Eric attended the 2010 British Curry awards. Can
you please supply details of anyone else from CLG (including
special advisors Giles Kennigham or Nick Westlake) who attended the
event with Eric? Can you also provide details of the hospitality
that the party received?

Yours in phall

Derek Tickles

FoI request #4 - The lovely Royal Wedding

Derek Tickles

26 November 2010

My Lovely Chums

After the wonderful news of the Royal engagement between Prince
William and the delightful Kate, I have been beside myself with
excitement. I expect this is infectious and you too sporting a
cheesy grins, as big as boy who has eaten a whole Victoria Sponge
cake alone.

I understand that a Public Bank holiday has been declared to
celebrate the event. I assume that many companies and offices will
also wish to mark the monumental and romantic time and CLG will be
no exception.

Can you please supply me with a summary (ideally no more than 10
pages) of the plans that you have to celebrate the royal wedding at
CLG? Can you also supply me with the size of the budget that is
being set aside to cover the costs (I assume this will be top
sliced from the local authority settlement and only the most
mean-mouthed republicans will object and frankly they should be

Yours with a fanfare

Derek Tickles

FoI request #3 - Street parties

Derek Tickles

19 November 2010

My Dear chums

In August our Eric made an exciting pronouncement on reducing the
bureaucracy for street parties. He said:

"Fetes, street parties and fairs should be fun, and everyone's
energy needs to go into the fun part - not trawling through endless
reams of guidance and dusty rules.

"I want to banish the myths around laws preventing people from
putting on events.

"So there is still time for you to get together with your
neighbours this summer. Your council may be able to help you close
a road for a proper street party. If not, you can hold something in
a garden or even the park. It's your community, so celebrate it."

I am very excited about this and I am sure there are thousands of
others interested as well. I have great plans. I really do. I
cannot wait for the day to hold a street party. It is going to be
the biggest, bestest party in the whole wide world. There will be
tables laden with the finest cakes (Victoria Sponge obviously),
jelly and ice cream. There will lashings of lots of naughty but
nice food and all washed down with gallons of pop. Children will
dance, ladies will sing and men will cheer, even the dogs and cats
will join in I am sure. And the reason for this majestic event? To
celebrate the removal of Eric and his cronies from Eland House.
Ooooh that will a lovely day….

Anyway sorry I digress. On the assumption that there will thousands
if not millions of simple folk wishing to hold and celebrate like
me has CLG estimated the cost to the public sector for these
events. Cost incurred will include local authority planning,
policing, cleaning up as well as the more intangible costs
connected with road closures?

Yours in festive fun,

Derek Tickles

FoI request #2 - Special advisors

Derek Tickles

13 October 2010

Dear Department for Communities and Local Government,

Can you please supply me with the following information on all
current special advisors employed by CLG ministers. I am
particularly interested in Giles Kennigham and Nick Westlake but
please include details of any others.

1) Date of appointment and number of others candidates interviewed
for post.

2) Current pay (within 5k band)

3) Job descriptions, key duties and responsibilities.

Yours faithfully and keep having fun,

Derek Tickles

FoI request #1 Code name projects such as Victoria Sponge

Derek Tickles

15 October 2010

Dear Department for Communities and Local Government,

I found the recent revelations concerning the project to abolish
the Audit Commission was code named Operation Victoria Sponge
hilarious (see:

Once I had recovered from my fit of laughter I contacted a source
at CLG who is currently working at a senior level as well as a
close colleague at national newspaper. I asked them both whether
they were aware of any other clandestine projects that have been
undertaken under pseudonyms or codename at CLG. I was surprised by
the response I was given.

Can you please confirm whether the following code names have been
used and if they relate to the projects described please?

1. Operation Jam(-jar) Roly Poly - Project to upgrade Eric Pickles'
car from Toyota Prius to a Jaguar.

2. Operation Spotted Dick - Project to increase media profile of
Pickles and to ensure his regular appearance on TV news, radio and
in national newspapers

3. Operation Lardy Cake - Project to encourage Ministers to
exercise more to help fight obesity as this has been perceived
negatively by public and is a priority according to PM.

4. Operation Raspberry Tart - Project to abolish evidence based
policy and encourage public confidence in decisions being made on
the fly.

5. Operation fruitcake - To pass responsibility of CLG external
press and media to special advisers to enable a more controlled

6. Operation fairy cake - Project to extend the influence and roles
of CLG special advisers who have recently come under criticism

7. Operation Eton mess - Project to force councils to return to
weekly bin collection so that middle class homes do not need to
have over flowing slop buckets in their kitchens.

8. Operation Belgian waffle - Project to minimise funding to the
European Regional Development Fund.

9. Operation gooseberry fool - Project to eradicate public's
perception that CLG ministers are stupid or naive at best.

10. Operation Let them eat cake - Project to appease local
authorities with reduction in bureaucracy before savage spending

I sincerely hope that some of these projects were ideas generated
during an over zealous awayday and were not used. Please can you
supply any other codes names used with a project description.

I have previously held the work of CLG in high regard and I feel
that the use of these, quite frankly childish, project names is
embarrassing. Can you please supply me of the name of the minister,
special advisor or senior civil servant that approved the use of
the code names?

Keep having fun,

Derek Tickles

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Hello chums

Hello my dears, I am just getting started so stayed tuned, there will more to follow soon...

Yours in folly

Derek Tickles