Friday, 15 April 2011

How very dare you!

Those cheeky monkeys at Department of Communities and Local Government seem to have lost their sense of humour as well as thier way. For a Department that is keen on transparency and openness they do seem to be eager to put barriers in the way to answering legitimate questions.

They have decided to try and declare all my current and future requests as vexatious, partly as they doubt my name is no Derek Tickles and because they do not have a sense of humour (or at least Nick S-W doesn't). So I have had to turn all grumpy and request an Internal Review and then the next step will be a complaint to the Information Commissioners Office. It would be far simpler and cheaper if they just lightened up and answered the questions - or do they have something to hide???

I am sure if ultimately  they ban me from asking questions then a few soldiers from the growing army of armchair auditors will spring up to submit requests on my behalf.

Here is the text:

Use of pseudonym – I will openly admit that Derek Tickles is not my legal name, though many people call me by the nom de plume. Hence I feel it is acceptable to make requests using this name.

Further, I am using this pseudonym to protect my identity. I am currently an employee of the Department of Communities and Local Government and feel it may affect my position if I was to request information using my real name. In recent months I feel there is a feeling of menace and intimidation towards staff some of this is has been instigated by the Special Advisors. They are keen to review and influence many pieces of work and staff feel powerless to challenge them. Morale within the department is at an all time low and I have decided that the Freedom of Information Act is an important vehicle to expose goings on with the Department. I have a privileged position plus many contacts that provide me with a wealth of interesting information. To protect myself and my sources, I request for this information to be released using the FoI act.

I do not see myself as a whistle blower, I see myself as vanguard of the transparency agenda and active participant in the army of armchair auditors. Is this not the wish of the Secretary of State? To quote Grant Shapps – “Sunlight is the best disinfectant”. DCLG need to ensure they are the seen to be open and not opaque if they wish to change the mentality in other public sector bodies.

For example the request about the ‘Tree of Celebration’. It is no big secret that the tree exists, let us just tell everyone we have been celebrating the good work of the Government Office of West Midlands months after they have been abolished, it may be embarrassing, but so be it. Let us be clear about how much time and money has been spent on system changes to allow spend over £500 to be put on the website. The public deserve the right to know and in turn this may lead to our leaders being more reasonable in requesting actions from councils.

May I also point out that guidance relating to the use section 8 and section 50 of the Freedom of Information Act provided by the ICO does encourage the release of information where possible when any name is provided. I also feel that DCLG state that they wish to be as helpful as possible. The name Derek Tickles may be seen by some as pun on the name of the Secretary of State but it not offensive, hence I do not see this as an issue. Has Eric Pickles complained? I suspect he has thicker skin than to find any offence.

I also take issue that my requests have been declared as vexatious under section 14(1). Whilst I have on occasion introduced humour, irony and on occasion poorly scripted slapstick, I have tried to avoid offence. In a separate request by Tony Maycock ( the Department was unable to provide any evidence that my requests had caused distress or irritation to staff. I would go further and say that many staff are pleased they have found a voice through my requests. I have received much support via twitter, email or through my blog ( - have a look round!). Some of my requests have come from issues directly raised by colleagues.

In the requests that you found vexatious you have normally conceded that the request does have serious purpose. I feel that you should focus your attention of providing the requested information rather than finding excuses not to be transparent. You may not like the rhetoric, you may not like the tone, you may not like the insinuations but I am sure many colleagues in local authorities feel the same way about speeches made by DCLG ministers and press releases sanctioned by the Special Advisors. Perhaps you either need to toughen up or stop insulting everyone else.

In future, I will continue to submit requests for information, I will attempt to confine any contentious issues to my blog but will provide context in the requests. Some of this context may be humorous and I doubt there is a law against this (yet) – happy to see what the ICO say. If my requests are rejected I am sure the growing disenfranchised army of armchair auditors will take up the Colours and proudly march into battle by resubmitting requests.


  1. In making these requests you are, of course, giving hassle to some low paid colleagues of yours. Which is morally questionable.

  2. Surely it is making sure that somebody has a job - answering the legitimate questions submitted under FOI?