Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Not Bin Around Lately

Yesterday I bounced down my front drive on my orange space hopper just in time to meet the bin men. They were struggling with the various bags and detritus that had been left out for the fortnightly collection. I decided to put the space hopper aside and help the chaps out. I carried two bulging bags to the bin truck and chucked them into crushers. One of the bin men gave me a hearty pat on the back and said ‘cheers pal’ and then he jumped onto the footplate of the truck as it pulled away.  So I copied his action and did likewise. Wrong move Derek! What happened next is part of a formal investigation that will be conducted by my council so I don’t want to go into too much detail because of sub judice.

In summary:  after deciding to volunteer to help out on the bin round, I was told by the once cheerful bin man to f-off and then physically booted off the truck. When I told him I wanted to be part of the big society he simply laughed and left me standing at the end of my road feeling like a fool. Well I wasn’t going to take this, so I jumped astride my trusty space hopper and gave chase. When I caught up with the truck I accosted the driver to further make my point about Dave Cameron’s ambitious plans. This was a complete waste (no pun intended) of time. I left by telling them that Uncle Eric was soon going to force them to come out collecting rubbish every week and they just laughed and said good, as long as he doubles their wages.

This has left the Tickles household scarred. We are considering investigating of opting out of waste collection from the council and going private. I am sure I can save money if I start incinerating rubbish in my back yard and the rest I will bury behind the rose bushes.

Here is my latest Freedom of Information request:

Dear Chums

Last year Uncle Eric Pickles said:

“It’s a basic right for every English man and woman to be able to put the remnants of their chicken tikka masala in their bin without having to wait a fortnight for it to be collected.”

I have searched long and hard to see if this right is enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights Act. As you can probably guess it is not and is surely reason to ditch this busy bodies charter.

I assume that Uncle Eric would wish to extend this right to our non-English neighbours who live and pay taxes to councils and probably means just within England. Anyway I fear I am in danger of digressing and do not want to risk being declared vexatious.

At the weekend the Secretary of State revealed he intends to incentivise councils to re-introduce weekly bin collections. Can you please supply me the following information:

1 . How many councils currently do not have weekly bin collections?

2. What evidence does DCLG possess that residents of non weekly collection are less satisfied that those that receive weekly collection?

3. Assuming councils save money from fortnightly collections, have you an estimate on how much it will cost for all councils to return to weekly collections? (Perhaps Grant Shapps can help with this as he is the master of cost saving estimates). I assume councils will incur significant costs including renegotiating contracts.

4. How much more money does DCLG estimate that private waste collection companies will make in the return to weekly collection.

Your rubbish

Friday, 20 May 2011

Viva Derek Tickles

Uncle Eric Pickles and DCLG have decided to to decalre my recent FoI requests vexatious. I challenged this and requested an internal review. The outcome of this was recently published here:


I have decided to respond to this but doubt if I will receive a reply - see below.  So Derek Tickles may be dead to DCLG, Never mind, I am sure we will think of ways in which to continue putting requests to them. Derek will lives on.

Dear Sue

Thank you for conducting the internal review. I know you are a busy person and appreciate the effort you have put in. I have admired your professionalism and understand your letter if the view of the department and not your own.  I do wish to contest some of your assertions though:

1.       I would not describe myself as obsessive, unless you are describing my behaviours in relation to my sock draw, which I hope you are not. As you state, I have submitted 29 requests in 10 months; so approx 3 a month. DCLG is a large, powerful and important department and the Great Uncle Eric has called for an Army of Armchair auditors to hold public bodies to account. Is there an upper limit on the number of FoI requests that DCLG have in mind? I would hardly describe my requests as a barrage, more like an opening salvo perhaps?

2.       I would argue that including, what you describe as satire, is not a sign of being obsessive; my purpose is simply to provide context in an engaging manner. Some people in DLCG may not like the tone but many people do and I have received positive feedback from colleagues via twitter, email and directly. My blog currently probably receives 10 times more visitors than the DCLG barrier busting website!!

3.       My understanding is that there is no evidence that I have caused distress or harassment to DCLG staff. This has been confirmed by a FoI request - see: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/vexatious_tickles#incoming-158298
Do you have any new evidence that you wish to share? How about conducting a staff survey?

4.       I do appreciate the word ‘spadstic’ may be seen as offensive and with hindsight should not have included it in the request but saved it for the blog. I have tried to be careful not to offend, I would hate be criticised that my FoI career is based on incompetence!

5.       I would argue that my requests are not burdensome. I have requested information under the Freedom of Information Act and you are legally obliged to provide the information. I have been careful to ensure that my requests usually are achievable within the legal resource limits. In many cases I know it should take less than 5 minutes to answer the requests. In some instances I have the information on my PC but wish to see it in the public domain. I am surprised that DCLG rhetoric is to promote transparency but appear to keen to block access to information.

6.       I agree I poke fun at Eric Pickles (he is a big target), Ministers and SpAds, but so what! They have insulted, abused and derided civil servants, local authorities and named individuals directly or through the press. I am sure they have a thick skins (as well as skulls). Are they really upset? if so I say did-dums.

7.       All my requests have serious purpose. Sometimes DCLG may not be aware of the purpose and sometimes you may not like it. As you may have realised the general themes are the lack of evidence behind policy and lack of transparency… oh and that I don’t like Nick Sheridan-Westlake - nothing professional purely personal.

8.       I do not make FoI request for fun or to cause mischief (sic) . I have better things to do with my life, wife and children. But I feel I have public duty to try to hold the SoS, Minister and SpAds to account for the current behaviour.

9.       I note that you are amongst the hundreds who read my blog. Is it true I heard a giggle from you whilst you were doing your research? Whilst I am flattered you trouble yourself to read it but I am baffled to what bearing it has on me being declared vexatious. Would you care to explain?

10.   DCLG have stated that all future requests from Derek Tickles will be declared vexatious. I am currently seeking legal advice and may challenge this with the ICO. In the meantime I know that others will take up the cause and continue to submit FoI requests that will hold DCLG to account.

Loving yer work,

Thursday, 12 May 2011


S p A d - U - D i s l i k e

So Big Gus O’Donnel admits to Caroline Flint that “serious allegations were fully investigated at the time” over the crass comments released  from a DCLG source over Jenny Watson.

See LGC for more details  http://m.lgcplus.com/5029711.article

I have been for a while trying to unearth more details using Freedom of Information requests. There have been plenty of rumours within Eland House about Special Advisers (Nick Sheridan-Westlake and Giles Kenningham) getting too big for their boots, interfering in areas that they should not and releasing a continuous stream of invective, juvenile and puerile nonsense to the press. Uncle Eric and co. have gone out of their way to be as unhelpful as possible -so much for transparency eh?

The word on the (Victoria) Street is that one of the SpAds is moving on soon. Nick has is the most high profile SpAd and supposedly the bright one. Giles on the other hand has lovely hair. He was also previously respected for his career in media but there hasn’t been much evidence of him using these skills recently, though he still commands the higher salary – but don’t tell Nick!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Cheque the hols!

Does Uncle Eric really love Dizzee Rascal? I knew he was obsessed with 'grime' and bins but really didn't know it went this far. Respect to the big man if this is true.

With the sun shining, many of us start to think about having some fun in the sun (no not the nasty newspaper who never credited my pen exclusive!). With budgets as well as waistbands more stretched than usual this year, perhaps it is time to scrutinise Minister's recent jollies abroad. So here is latest Freedom of Information request to DCLG.

Dear Chums

I learnt two new amazing music-related facts over the weekend. Firstly, the delightful Sarah Harding suggested the name Girls Aloud to the other lovely lasses as she is a big fan of Radio 4's Thinking Allowed -because she simply loved the pun.

The other fact is even more amazing. I was in Eland House's (subsidised) cafe recently and I saw Great Uncle Eric tucking into a mixed grill. He was listening to an iPod and I think I could just make the Dizzee Rascal hit 'Holiday' leaking from his headphones. Amazing, both poor Grant Shapps and Uncle Eric are fans of the Rascal - I hope they have not been  sharing music illegally though. It does seem their music taste is different from Greg Clarke who loves the pomp of attending the Last Night of the Proms -  of course only when the tickets are a gift!

The 'Holiday' tune got me thinking about trips abroad - perhaps Uncle Eric too was reliving some fine recent memories? Everyone knows in these  difficult all-in-it-together times that work trips come under close scrutiny, especially when Ministers are expected to publish all expenditure. So how could a Minister possibly grab their 'passport and bikini ' and escape that 'same old scenery 'as D Rascal might put it, for some overseas fun? Hey, why not get a junior member of staff to tag along and get him/her to put in the expense claim? Surely no one would look there, would they???
 Can you please supply the following information?

 1. A list of locations and dates, since May 2010, where DCLG Ministers have been on foreign trips?
 2. For each trip can you provide details any other DCLG staff member that accompanied for all or part of trip? Please supply name and job title?
 3. Please supply detailed expense claims for each attendee of the trips? Include if possible claims that were submitted and subsequently rejected.

I fear you may try to avoid answering this request by declaring it vexatious, even though the questions are important and legitimate. I therefore urge anyone else interested to 'dance wiv me' and submit the three questions above on their own behalf. I understand we will be surprised by what we find out.

 Yours in Grime


Saturday, 7 May 2011

Some people think I’m bonkers

How big a fan is poor Grant Shapps of Dizzee Rascal? Not sure we will find out through the latest freedom of information request but hopefully we will unearth some evidence to support his 'bonkers' statements.

Here is the latest request:

Dear Chums

I write firstly applaud Uncle Eric and all at DCLG in allowing me to take part in a truly wonderful street party to celebrate the Royal Wedding last week -  wow what a day we had! There were about 6 of us for most of the day, though Mrs T did have take the twins to a birthday party at 11am for a few hours. So it was left to me, Bob with the dodgy knee from number 3 and his collie called Shep to get the party started.

We sat about in the street drinking Stella and munching on a KFC family feast bucket (one each natch). We were having so much fun we forgot to put the tv on to watch the wedding, but we had a blinder of a day. Really magic and the the only downer was we had to deal with a few irate motorists and a nasty incident when an ambulance tried to spoil our fun but we continued to exercise our right to party. So thanks chums.

I love it that poor Grant Shapps appears to be a fan of Dizzee Rascal, more of a Scrufizzer  fan myself. Mr Rascal once sang:


“I wake up everyday it’s a daydream
Everythin in my life isn’t what it seems
I wake up just to go back to sleep
I act real shallow but I’m in to deep
And all I care about is sex and violence
And a heavy bass line is my kind of silence
Everybody says I got to get a grip
But I let sanity give me the slip”

B.O.N.K.E.R.S!!!!... Indeed. Sounds like my life – apart from the sex and violence reference. Respect  MC Shappsy….. but sooo last year really.

Mr  Shapps , in his considered think piece in The Mirror, quite rightly attacked councils for their ‘bonkers’ approach to applying Health and Safety laws. I am so glad this he is the voice of reason. I now hope that he will tackle other bonkers acts so that I can continue to send one of the twins up the chimney from time to time – or at least until they get too big and not have to justify a little spring cleaning to some interfering social worker. Also it would help if he could stop those busy bodies forbidding me from fitting my own gas boiler and finally allow me next week to use the job lot of out-of-date sausages that I picked up down the boozer at the twins schools sports day next week. I am sure that with a little ketchup they will be fine after a couple of minutes on the BBQ and will really get the kids going.

Anyway time to get to the substantive request. Can you please supply me with the following information?

1)      A list of councils who DCLG are aware applied ‘bonkers health and safety rules [to] prevent simple celebrations taking place’
2)      Any evidence that councils were going, in Grant Shapps, words ‘bonkers?’  Please include the name of the council and details of the ‘bonkers’ decision,  act or intent.

Yours bonking