Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Credit where credit's due

Here is my latest FoI request which, assuming the cheeky monkeys don't declare vexatious will produce some very very interesting results!

Dear Chums

When thinking of our tough economic times I am reminded of the wise words of Dr Hook. No, not the 18th century natural philosopher, but the more important pop-country-rock group of the 1970s. Managing budgets is much like being in love with a beautiful woman- it's hard.

If you imagine Dr Hook’s paean concerns not the turmoils of a jealous romantic attraction but the rather less poetic task of managing an in-year fiscal budget, you will get my drift. To get yourself in the mood, sing these lyrics to yourself while mentally picturing eight hundred lines on twelve linked Excel spreadsheets:

When you're in love with a beautiful woman
It's hard
When you're in love with a beautiful woman
You know it's hard
   It's hard, you know it gets so hard
Everybody wants her, everybody loves her
Everybody wants to take your baby home

At a micro level many hard working Christian families are struggling to balance their books. Myself and the adorable Mrs T are no exception. We have decided to review all out goings and see where we can make cuts (whoops, I mean savings).

I am pleased to see that Uncle Eric is doing the same at DCLG and opening up the books to be scrutinised by the army of armchair auditors. I note with interest that all purchases made on the government credit card over £500 has been published. But does this go far enough?

Personally, I have never popped out at lunch time to get a cheese slice and Belgian bun from Greggs and ended wandering into to Currys and buying a fridge-freezer on a whim. Neither have I stumbled into DFS on my way home after a few too many shandies and randomly purchased a 3- piece imitation leather suite on the plastic only to instantly regret it when I get home to see I have already have a brand new suite in my front room.

I have, though, on numerous occasions woken up with a half eaten kebab stuffed in my coat pocket or found myself filling my cake-hole with with crisps and chocolates after my wholesome and healthy lunch.
It seems obvious to me that big expenditures are usually well researched and thought through. The smaller purchases are often bought on a whim, not needed and often do not present value for money. It is the small purchases that add up. It is also the small purchases that often hide the more embarrassing practices. Last week I had some explaining to do to Mrs T about my subscriptions to various jazz mags - thankfully she understands I need an outlet for my frustrations, and was thankful that a little splurge on Thelonius Monk does the trick.

My request is for all GPC expenditure under £500 since May 2010. If this could be supplied in the same format as the published expenditure over £500 that would be helpful (see http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/corporate/gpcdata)

Secondly can I also request how many cards are held by DCLG staff and can you provide a list of
job titles that are authorised to use the cards?

Finally if you could supply me with the credit card number, expiry date and 3 digit security number that would really help me.

Yours ever indebtedly


Wednesday, 23 March 2011

You have been evicted. Please leave Eland House.

One of these three fine gents will be saying farewell to Eland House soon.  An announcement will be made soon after the local elections in May. As has been reported here before, the work of Uncle Eric special boyz has led to The PM getting a telling off from big Gus. Now David is peeved with Uncle Eric. 

I am sure whoever is sent on their way, there will cheers from many in Eland House,  I may even bring cakes in.... or organise a street party.

So do you know which one will be sent on his way.  Will it be:
(A) Young Nick Sheridan-Westlake,
(B) Uncle Eric Pickles
(C) Dashing Giles Kenningham?

......... I know but I am sworn to secrecy, but please feel free to speculate in the comments section if you desire.  And try to keep it clean, ladies and children read this blog.

[And please do not mock the image above, it took all day to do, it was quiet day in the office]

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Tree's Company

We have been told times are hard and that’s no lie. If I was to shed a tear each time a friend, colleague or even the irritating fool who sat opposite me has been made redundant, Eland House would be flooded to the 2nd floor in my salty fluids.

I am sure there will not be a dry eye in the house when Uncle Eric and his band of fools leave DCLG – tears of joy. This is assuming that they wake up poor Grant Shapps and take him with them. There is a real fear amongst staff  that if he was left behind he would be unable to find his way out without assistance and could end up causing even greater damage to DCLG and local government.

In these hard big society times staff morale can be adversely affected. This has been starkly portrayed in the latest DCLG staff survey. http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/corporate/pdf/1827724.pdf

Shockingly less than a third of staff are positive about DCLG as an organization and a fifth do not feel that DCLG motivates them to meet their objectives. No wonder Dave ‘The PM’ Cameron suggests that they are ‘enemies of enterprise’.

Senior staff therefore face the challenge of motivating this increasingly despondent workforce. They have realised what’s needed at DCLG is a ‘celebration’ to raise these wobbly spirits. But how?

Perhaps they could play Cool and the Gang at full blast every morning through the offices.

YAHOO! YAHOO! (Its a Celebration)
Celebrate good times
come on ! - Let's celebrate
Celebrate good times
come on ! - Let's celebrate

There's a party going on right here a celebration 

to last throughout the years.
So bring your good times and your laughter too
we're gonna celebrate your party with you
Come on now (Celebration)
let's all celebrate and have a good time.
We go celebrate and have a good time.

Maybe not- Uncle Eric hasn’t seen his dancing shoes for some time.

Could the great Secretary of State could stop off at Tesco Express on the way to work and buy a couple of tins of Celebrations?. Possibly-but I fear that empty tins would be jettisoned out of the window as the Ministerial Jag approached Eland House, leaving staff ignorant of his noble gesture.

No. Disco moves and Chocolates won’t cut it. Apparently what’s needed is a pretend tree....

So here is the latest FoI request:

Dear Chums

According to the recent staff survey all is not well at DCLG. Staff have little confidence in senior management, they are unmotivated and do not feel valued.

I know that great efforts have been made to enthuse and breathe life into pen-pushing, non-jobbing, bureaucratic enemies of enterprise that Uncle Eric views his staff to be.

These efforts include the absolutely amazing ‘Tree of Celebration’. This totem of the successes of DCLG is a cut-out paper tree with post-it notes randomly stuck on whilst a scary massive cartoon bird squawks stuff (If you don't believe me please see the picture on my blog). I know that every time I fail to avert my eyes from the disturbing image, I go a little weak at the knees and I feel the last warmth of my dwindling morale slowly leaking away.

Can you please provide the following information:

1. Who is responsible for moderating what appears on the ‘Tree of Celebration’?

2. Provide a list of notices that have been added to the ‘Tree of Celebration’ since May 2010.

I can't wait for you to spread the good news.

Yours jubilantly,


Sunday, 13 March 2011

***** World Movie Exclusive *****

The press have made much of the casting of Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher for the movie ‘The Iron Lady’ but a little voice (admittedly it’s inside my head- it must be those CYMK toner fumes)  tells me that there’s a more interesting cameo further down the film’s credits.

Yes , during a flashback scene set at a Conservative ‘do’ in 1980, Thatcher will be shown coming face to face ( over a generous buffet) with a strapping young Bradford Conservative councillor. The starry-eyed Eric (for it is he) is seen to curtsy and nervously heap praise on his noble leader’s inspirational maiden speech of 1960 only to have two secret service figures appear and comically escort the overeager admirer away from Thatch, spraying compliments and scotch egg crumbs as he departs.  Insiders say no less a man than James Corden has agreed to flesh out the part.

Rumour also has it that Mr Corden is treating Uncle E as a Raging Bull, and is bulking up De Niro –style for the meaty role, on a strict diet of Victoria Sponge, breakfasts (seven item, natch) and mixed grills - all provided from the subsidised DCLG luxury canteen 

It sounds as though Uncle Eric only has a very small part indeed, but I am sure it will cause much amusement in the dark, at The ABC in Beckenham for myself -and my very own Mrs T.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Spad's Army

What with all this nonsense of Uncle Eric declaring war on all and sundry (http://tinyurl.com/5uxnltw) it would not be a surprise if he is gunning for William Hauge's soon be vacant position as Foreign Secretary. After all, Uncle Eric is renowned for his diplomatic skills and was recently complimented by 90 fellow coalition LibDems for his gunboat diplomacy (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12413101)!

It is sad to see young William getting so over-excited, perhaps after reading the latest Andy McNabb, and donning his camouflaged baseball cap before instructing the SAS on a somewhat bizarre house call to the Libyan opposition party.

It seems that William is lacking the independent advice support and firm back-up that is usually provided by a special adviser. It was only last summer that, after various salacious comments in the press , his SpAd, Chrisopher Myers knelt down before Mr Hague, offering him his head.

It does seem that William and Uncle Eric share a problem with SpAd management. Recently the big cheese in the Civil Service (Gus O'Donnell) had to give Dave 'The PM' Cameron a telling off about the behaviour of SpAds (http://tinyurl.com/6hlq9en).

The rumours are the main criticism is being levelled at Uncle Eric Pickles special boyz - young Giles Kenningham and daring Nick Sheridan-Westlake. Even Bendict Brogan, deputy editor at The Daily Telegraph seems to be eagerly speculating which SpAd will go. See:


So here is my latest FoI request:

Dear Chums
Last week I was at parents evening for my twins. I was pleased to hear that they are both doing well and showing progress in all subjects. I was informed that Eric the younger is showing a keen interest in politics which I found surprising given that he is still at primary school. His teacher, Mrs Blackboard, says when the class was asked what they wanted to do when they grew up, my little Eric was the only one to say he wanted to be a Special Adviser. Unfortunately his fellow pupils decided to extend the bullying that he has recently experienced and he spent the next few days being called ‘a spadstic’. I am keen to that this unsavoury incident does not deter my son from pursuing a career in politics.

Can you supply information on the following please:
1 . Do special advisers (Nick Sheridan-Westlake and Giles Kenningham) receive quarterly and annual performance reviews. If yes can anonymised score and assessment be provided please

2. Have either SPad received any disciplinary written or verbal warning since appointment at DCLG

3. Have either SpAd been awarded a bonus or pay increase since appointment

And finally so that I able to conduct some forensic armchair auditing,

4. Can you please supply all expense claims for both SpAds in a spreadsheet.

Yours faithfully,

Private Tickles

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Return to sender

When  Rick Astley sang the poetic and moving chorus:

Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down
Never gonna run around and desert you
Never gonna make you cry, never gonna say goodbye
Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you

I suspect he was not thinking about Uncle Eric Pickles wearing (or not) rubber knickers but I found myself thinking about him and the recent knock backs I received from him, whilst listening to Rick's wonder first LP - Whenever You Need Somebody.

My last set of FoI requests have been declared vexatious but some of these requests are touching raw nerves deep within Eland House. Obviously the best course of action would firstly to simply answer the questions and possibly the second is to stop the SpAds (Nick and Giles) from messing about with the running of a once great adequate Department.

So here is my latest request - which is quite frankly dull, but important. Don't fret chums as normal service will be resumed very soon.

Dear Chums

I am upset that you have declared a number of recent requests as
vexatious. It does appear that important questions are going
unanswered; especially ones concerning the involvement of special
advisors and the handling of freedom of information requests.

Can you please supply me with copies of all electronic
correspondence or hand written notes between Martin Harding and
either of the two DCLG special advisors, that relate to the
handling of my FoI requests that have been declared vexatious.

If you feel that this request would be better dealt with under the
data protection act then please let me know and I pursue this issue
using the act.

Yours faithfully,

Derek Tickles