Sunday, 23 January 2011

Uncle Eric: DCLG is not Section D in Spooks

My very first Freedom of Information request was on 15th October and was about secret codenames that DCLG were using:

These all followed cake related suggestions after it was revealed by the Daily Telegraph that amusingly titled Operation Victoria Sponge was used for project to abolish the Audit Commission.  Here were a few suggestions:

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 message.

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

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 cuts.

I was dismayed to find it was declared vexatious. I subsequently submitted a follow up request. The outcome of which was that DCLG have admitted to using codenames to ensure papers are kept secret and therefore kept from the Army of Armchair Auditors. This is very worrying and I sincerely hope they stop this practice.

My response below reminds DCLG that they are not in a episode of Spooks. I am sure the words that Sir Harry Pearce uttered in series 5 to the Home Secretary when discussing national security- "I have seen things that would make your blood run cold"; are words that Uncle Eric has said himself. But in his case it was perhaps after glimpsing a reflection of himself in the mirror as he stepped out of the shower.

Dear Martin,

Thank you for your response.

I do find it worrying that DCLG are hiding information behind secret codenames. This will make the work difficult for Armchair Auditors who may wish to hold you to account. If this is allowed to continue then who knows what Uncle Eric will hide from us.

Can I remind you that DCLG is not a counter terrorism department . You are not starring in an episode of Spooks, even though some staff may have the fashion sense on Malcolm. Uncle Eric Pickles is by a long stretch not the much respected Sir Harry Pearce KBE. Whilst I am sure that some may wish DCLG to follow the format of Spooks in that key players are usually pensioned off (sometimes painfully) after a short tenure; I would simply request that you focus on transparency and allowing us to challenge your behaviour
Yours non cryptically

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