14 August 2012

An awesome apology (not from Barnet, naturally)

Mr Mustard tweeted liked this at the weekend; it felt good.

Before Mr Mustard shows you what an awesome apology looks like (and he has written a few in his time having got things wrong from time to time) and once you start on an apology it might as well be a good one with feeling, he will give you some examples of how not to right, which are all from Barnet Council.

So you are technically right - Bill Murphy. Assistant Director of Customer Service (and of being technically wrong and writing like a spoilt child)

I have nothing more to add to my previous emails to you on this matter - Pam Wharfe
Interim Director Environment, Planning & Regeneration (how to remain an interim! - Mr Mustard wrote back as the question had been ducked)

I cannot understand what bit of don't e mail me again, you don't understand - Cllr Brian Coleman
The bit where you want to fail in your duties as set out on the Barnet Council website

"They (councillors) represent public interest" so when Mr Mustard writes a long and considered email to Cllr Longstaff with my thoughts on important matters, and cc every councillor, you really shouldn't ask him not to; no other councillor else did. 

Also, the "leader" Richard Cornelius says that "we conservatives are good at listening" so Richard probably expects you to diligently read what you receive from council tax payers (and probably quietly despairs at your antics).

By contrast and as an example of a fulsome apology look at this from East Sussex County Council which followed me asking them why they claimed copyright when they admitted they did not have any (following this long exchange of emails)

Dear Mr Mustard,

Thank you for your continued patience with us in regards to all matters FOI related. Your blog is great and really demonstrates the value of transparency in local government.

I have read the on-going correspondence between yourself and my team with great interest and some disappointment.

Your comments regarding the format of our email response were very useful and we will of course replace it with something more user friendly and ensure that in future it does not contain needless duplication. As you quite rightly point out, the fact the nobody else had commented is irrelevant and we should welcome feedback to help us to improve our service. I am sorry that we did not acknowledge this at the time.

Please accept my apologies that we did not include your own reference numbers in our correspondence with you. I have advised my team that they must ensure these are added as a matter of course.

The use of the copyright paragraphs was not appropriate on this occasion and should not have been included in the response from us. Once again, your feedback has great value and I have advised my team of the somewhat rare circumstances that it would be appropriate to include them.

These issues have highlighted that we need to review our correspondence more regularly to ensure that it is in line with current recommended good practice and is customer friendly. It is very regrettable that we entered into such a defensive position regarding this; in hindsight, this could have been avoided.

The response to your most recent request for information will follow shortly, minus the copyright!

Kind regards
The alter ego of Mr Mustard had not mentioned to East Sussex that he wrote a blog and of course when asking FOI questions if you don't use your real name you can't complain to the Information Commissioner but as his question had been about Andrew "Black Hole" Travers he might have had to explain to FOI why someone from Barnet was asking about his remuneration. That is speculation. The other way is that when anyone hears about a new senior manager arriving at their authority they google them to see what they can learn.
Yesterday Mr Mustard heard from Birmingham City Council about an FOI question and he could also see from his visitor log that they had been on the blog at about the same time. Again he hadn't linked his question to the blog.

That aside, you have to admire the tone and content of the above please tickle my tummy apology where the writer has thrown away any defence whatsoever  and completely won over Mr Mustard with their approach. He has deliberately not named them although the writer is free to out themselves in the comment box.

Now Barnet Council what can you learn from this? You are bunkered down in the North London Business Park and possibly think that everything that every blogger says is wrong. We bash One Barnet hard, mainly, in Mr Mustard's case, because of the lack of proper figures showing if it is likely to work or not. We must see a professional and independently produced cost-benefit analysis to be persuaded.
The other thing to learn is how to write a proper apology with feeling (in your own words, don't copy any of the East Sussex wording which Bill Murphy certainly didn't teach them when he was there - a bit incestuous all this swapping of officers/Town Hall Tax Dodgers?).
Have a lovely day. If you do something wrong today, please say sorry, and mean it.
Yours frugally
Mr Mustard


  1. What a brilliant reply from East Sussex. Well done to them for showing Barnet Council how to do the right thing.

    I never apologise for anything, as clearly I am never wrong, so I can only marvel at those who are, and do ...

  2. I actually thought it was a spoof email when I started reading it. You should send it to all of our councillors for comment

  3. By the way, in case any one doesn't know - our own small but perfectly formed deputy CEO Mr Andrew Travers has just gone to East Sussex to share his talents with them, as they are just too marvellous to keep to ourselves here in Broken Barnet.

  4. And not only has he gone there Mrs A but his Town Hall Tax Dodging rate has increased from £1,000 a day to £1,140.45

    That must be the benefit of being road tested by the Barnet bloggers; you are much more streetwise and capable.

  5. really? I had not noticed his pay rise. Worth every fucking penny, of course. As we are confident the tax payers of East Sussex will agree.


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