23 June 2012

The Council create extra FOI requests

Budget and Performance Overview and Scrutiny Committee 24 April 2012

and they also don't seem to be able to quickly respond to a simple enquiry about One Barnet.

-----Original Message-----
From: Mr Mustard

Sent: 21 June 2012 11:24
To: Gowan, Ed
cc: Travers, Andrew
Subject: One Barnet Programme Highlight Report presented to B&P O&S Committee on 24 April 2012. ( my ref #1308)

Dear Mr Gowan

I refer to the final page of your report headed "Programme Savings"

Can you please tell me why the figures for 2010/11 are still provisional at this stage some 15 months after that council year finished.

Please can you give me a breakdown by council tax year of the total Base Budget Savings to date of £5.82m

Yours sincerely

Mr Mustard

Dear Mr Mustard

Thank you for your email. We will now respond with the information you request in line with the Freedom of Information Act.

To this end, I am passing your enquiry to our Freedom of Information link officer, Mohsin Abbasi, who will lead on the collection of the data you request.

Yours sincerely,

Ed Gowan
Assistant Director, Commercial Services
London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1NP
Tel: 020 8359 4346

What Mr Mustard guesses is the case is that the heading on page 35 was wrong, it had been brought forward from the previous year's report and no-one involved in the production of the report noticed. Let's see if the officer can bear to use the word mistake, as in "I made a mistake". 

The next action illustrates all that is wrong with the council.

The AD for commercial transformation should know off by heart all of the main One Barnet numbers as if not he simply isn't worth employing at that level. The answer to Mr Mustard's question is almost certainly in the top secret Appendix 1 and if that had not been classified as it has when it contains figures that every resident has a right to see Mr Mustard would not have needed to make his enquiry. Mr Gowan could simply have looked up the answer to Mr Mustard's question in 5 or 10 minutes and with a quick bit of cut and paste sent a reply. Oh no, far too easy to spend 5 minutes doing some work, instead, he delegates the task to a fairly junior staff member whose replies Mr Mustard has not found entirely satisfactory in the past. 

Even more ridiculous is that what should be a simple piece of correspondence that could have been handled in 10 minutes although 10 days is allowed for correspondence has not been turned into an FOI request by the council (don't count this as one of Mr Mustard's requests) which gives them up to 20 days to answer and has to go through the FOI management software and take up the case of the 3 main FOI officers who have enough to do as it is. 

Not only is the council bureaucratic, it creates bureaucracy at the drop of a simple question.

Cllr Rayner wouldn't utter the word Stupid the other evening. It isn't a problem Hugh ( you did introduce yourself to Mr Mustard as Hugh I believe, Mr Mustard does not like to be overly familiar ) as you were referring to the well known KISS principle where stupid doesn't really mean stupid.

KISS = keep it simple stupid

a management philosophy that isn't coming to Barnet Council anytime soon.

Whilst we are on the subject of simple (no Mr Mustard isn't going to talk about councillors, you are so naughty Mrs Angry) there is another outstanding request of Mr Mustard's which has not been actioned since this email of 29 July 2011

Dear Mr Mustard

Apologies for the lack of a response, not least as I am broadly supportive of your suggestion.

I have discussed this matter with the Leader of the Council and intend to bring forward proposals as to how the Council will work to meet Plain English standards.

I note there is a cost of becoming a corporate member of the Plain English campaign and the Council will therefore need to consider the most cost effective way of achieving the standard.

Kind regards

Nick Walkley
Chief Executive

£9.2m can be found for the One Barnet programme, the Plain English campaign would more than pay for itself in time and paper savings yet has not been introduced, although of course OneBarnetspeak and Plain English are mutually exclusive which may have been the real problem.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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