4 October 2011

FOI - Did this request cost £225 ?

Barnet Council have responded to the famous five bloggers' letter to the Right Honourable Eric Pickles MP ( the Barnet Bloggers' admirer  ) by claiming that one Barnet Blogger has cost the council £40,000. 

Two of the Barnet Bloggers have ruled themselves out of having asked so many questions that the council had to spend £40,000 which they didn't in any case.

VickiM57 has asked zero questions ( shame on you Vicki! ) and
Roger at the Barnet Eye has revealed that he asked 6 question in the relevant time period ( Roger doesn't need FOI much as Barnet Council employees and other interested parties just give him information )

Here is a typical request that was made

7 September 2011  reference #1109
Please tell me the pay scale for a Parking Meter Engineer in money terms.

Now that was a very simple request. Would it take 9 hours at £25 to answer? No, about 2 minutes. Here is the answer received today - yes it really took until today to answer such a simple question.

Did the council quote my reference when replying? no they didn't. It's poor on their part. The council have references in order to order their documentation and so does Mr Mustard. Please be more efficient in future "FOI Officers" ( not your real title I know )

Dear Mr Mustard

I am writing in respect of your recent enquiry for information held by the Council under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Unfortunately I am unable to locate the information you requested as we do not have a position titled Parking Meter Engineer.

We do, however, have a position titled Parking Maintenance Engineer ( pedantic but accurate but hey all that the parking maintenance engineers do is to maintain parking meters so an easy mistake to make? )  . The salary for this role is within the band £20 - £25,000 per annum.

Your Rights

If you are unhappy with the way your request for information has been handled, you can request a review by writing to the FOI Officer at: The London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London, N11 1NP (email : foi@barnet.gov.uk).

If you remain dissatisfied with the handling of your request or complaint, you have a right to appeal to the Information Commissioner at: The Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF (telephone: 08456 30 60 60 or 01625 54 57 45; website: www.ico.gov.uk).

There is no charge for making an appeal.

Maureen Topping
Strategic HR Data Manager ( oh what a poncey title )
London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1NP
Tel: 020 8359 7804
Barnet Online: www.barnet.gov.uk

The information in this e-mail is confidential and may also be the subject of legal privilege ( I don't think so! ) . It is intended solely for the addressee. If you are not the intended recipient please reply to the sender. ( Irrelevant as a FOI reply is public information )

Information contained in this e-mail may be subject to public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. Unless the information is legally exempt from disclosure, the confidentiality of this e-mail and your reply cannot be guaranteed. ( "Unless", what is the point of such a paragraph ? either put this paragraph in if it applies or don't if it doesn't )

You are hereby placed on notice that any copying, publication or any other form of dissemination of this e-mail or its contents is prohibited. ( Ha ha ha - it is a reply to a Freedom of Information request - therefore it can be published - the clue is in the word Freedom )

Whilst every endeavour is taken to ensure that e-mails are free from viruses, no liability can be accepted, the recipient must use their own virus checking software ( Another pointless paragraph as the point at which an email picks up a virus is impossible to say although if every endeavour is taken then emails should be virus free )

Now back to the subject matter of people who maintain parking meters - whatever they are called.

Back to 30 August ( in response to a request made on 29 July 2011 - obviously a really hard question to look up - and the reply was outside of the 20 working day limit - just one simple question - 5 minutes work at most - except in Barnet Council )

Mr Mustard had noticed that a company called Secure Money Systems Ltd were paid £9,707 a month from April until October 2010. What was this for? It was for the services of two SMS engineers although it wasn't explicitly stated in the reply to the FOI request they were fixing broken parking meters, that can be safely assumed. So in-house the service cost a maximum of £25,000 a year and externally the cost was £9,707 divided by 2 and times 12 months = £58,242 per annum ( i.e. a year )

So in house the service costs at most £25,000 a year and externally it costs £58,000 a year.

Do these external engineers sound like good value ? Double the cost of in-house!

Does outsourcing Barnet sound like good value if this is the sort of cost that will be charged ? What chance of One Barnet making any savings ?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


  1. Mr Mustard: welcome back.

    I'm not sure how many FOI requests I've made: not that many but I intend to continue to make requests as and when I see fit, as is our right.

    As I have pointed out elsewhere, even if your requests had reached the ridiculous amount dreamed up by Cllr John Thomas, it would only match the obscene total of 54% rise in the extra allowances our Tory councillors voted themselves last year for doing the same 'job', chairing a committee, which may only meet twice a year, or 40 days worth of paper clip counting by Andrew 'MetPro' Travers. I think you offer best value for money,somehow.

  2. Brian Coleman always looks up to Westminster for wisdom in parking matters. However, things are not going well there: http://nutsville.com/?p=3485.


I now moderate comments in the light of the Delfi case. Due to the current high incidence of spam I have had to turn word verification on.