Friday, 29 July 2011

Alliance and Pester

I feel I may have to call upon the might of the Tax Payers of Alliance to help hold Uncle Eric Pickles and Department for Communities and Local Government to account - not sure they will have to stomach for a fight with the the great man though.

Below is my latest request.

Dear Chums,

I have always enjoyed reading the considered ramblings from the Tax Payers Alliance. The TPA appears to me to be akin to a paramilitary-drunken- arm of The Daily Mail. A lot of what they say has some truth to it but is often voiced in a slurring, slightly menacing way. I guess they are a extreme example of Armchair Auditors in action but one can’t but feel they are not seated comfortably in an armchair but are standing up brandishing a bar stool above their head. Also they differ from some other Armchair Auditors in that they have wealthy backers and have attracted some controversy about not paying tax in the UK but let’s not go there today.

I stumbled across a gem the other day on the TPA website. The TPA wrote a blog attacking Nottingham Council’s handling of Freedom of Information requests. As you may know Nottingham have for many months been attracting the wrath of Uncle Eric about their reluctance to publish expenditure data. Uncle Eric has been so angry with them I almost fear for his health as this spate cannot be good for his blood pressure.  Nottingham’s stance has led to the TPA exposing their inability to respond to FoI requests correctly.

One paragraph in the blog particularly caught my beady eye:

“One instance of the latter tactic is the council’s attempt to silence a local blogger, Andy Platt, who uses FOI to scrutinise the council’s leadership and spending. When Platt asked for copies of internal reports on the housing allocations scandal in the council, the council invoked Section 14 of the Act, accusing Platt of making ‘vexatious’ requests. The basis for the ‘vexatious’ claim was that Platt had made twenty FOI requests in a year (which it classed as ‘obsessive’, despite the fact that they were on unrelated subjects), and that he often publishes findings from his requests on his satirical blog mocking NCC’s leadership (by some mysterious tenuous link his requests are thereby said to be ‘harassing the Authority and distressing its  colleagues’).

This contradicts FOI guidance, which clearly states that it must be the requests themselves which are vexatious, not the requester and not any use to which the information may be put. Unfortunately for the council, no sooner had it brushed off Platt than another – presumably less vexatious – requester asked for copies of the same internal reports. The council reverted to its default tactic for dealing with FOIs. It simply ignored the request.”

This seemed awfully familiar. As you may recall recently that Uncle Eric’s own department have declared me and others as vexatious. They described me as ‘obsessive’ even though I had submitted less than 2 requests a month. They decided to declare me as vexatious rather than my requests and they also claimed (but provided no evidence) that my requests causes distress to staff.
The cause of action that Nottingham are taking is uncannily similar to DCLG’s approach. I can only assume collusion.  So can you please provide the following:

1.       Any advice, guidance or endorsement that DCLG have provided to Nottingham in handling Freedom of Information requests.
2.       Any plans (including drafts) that DCLG have to encourage other local authorities to block FoI requests as they have done and now is being replicated by Nottingham?
3.       Any correspondence between DCLG and the Tax Payers Allowance relating to Nottingham Councils FoI request or expenditure data.

I fear I may have to write to the TPA and request they do a balanced piece on DCLGs handling of FoI requests like they have done on Nottingham. Now that would be fun.

Yours faeciously 


  1. oh the irony!

  2. I have a dog his name is Rover

  3. Whoa my goodness