24 September 2013

From Vexatious to merely vexing - a journey - stage 1.

Vexatious: seeking only to annoy (that is from the dictionary; vexatious isn't actually defined in Freedom of Information legislation and Mr Mustard has unfortunately helped to formulate what it means. Doh!)

Vexed: Irritated, angered,(of a problem) difficult and much discussed, problematic.

It was Mrs Angry of Broken Barnet fame (currently to be found paddling in the sea off Brighton due to some meeting or other, Mr Mustard wouldn't know the details because it involves Politics with a big P which Mr Mustard simply doesn't have time for. Ooh, and La Bloggeuse was on the telly) who told Mr Mustard that he was only vexing not vexatious. (Yes, she did also tell him he had overdone the number of questions, as did two other people, but by then it was too late and Mr Mustard had the ICO's decision to deal with.)

Rather than spend hours preparing for a long, tedious and difficult hearing in front of the First Tier Tribunal at which Barnet Council would have instructed the best specialist barrister available (an uneven contest against a lay person) at which every rotten word he had ever written would have been dragged out of the blog and given an out-of-context airing, which the tribunal would probably have frowned upon, Mr Mustard negotiated a settlement with the Chief Operating Officer but more of that later. Before then, you need the scene to be set. 

What were those vexatious questions that Mr Mustard asked a year ago and caused such angst. These:

and these (two others were answered recently as they weren't vexatious after all, but by then Mr Mustard didn't really need the answers anyway)

So Mr Mustard thinks you will agree that these were not particularly taxing in terms of time and weren't likely to lead to Mr Mustard writing about an individual except in one case where the post was quite senior and that is allowed and the intention was to blog about the rapid turnover in personnel within the post and improper procurement that he wanted to write about, in any case.

So why did Mr Mustard ask these question? Answers follow the question numbers.

1.  In order to compare the numbers of tickets issued since NSL took over to when it was in-house. We now know from other reports that following NSL's appointment parking tickets have increased by 25%. Coincidence? Mr Mustard doesn't think so.

2.  The invoices supplied in response to a question didn't match the ones on the over £500 spending list.

3.  Asked for NSL's invoices each month so that the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) payments could be tracked.

4.  To confirm what Mr Mustard already knew that the answer was nil. A gross dereliction of duty and the cause of much trouble now that they are being sent off to bailiffs a year after the event.

5.  The council had just voted to start enforcing these moving traffic violations. There is a consultation ongoing about the location of new cctv cameras but some will be placed at these locations whatever the public says.

6.  So that costs of PayByPhone could be compared to the cost of cash collection from meters.

7.  To see what template wordings were in use.

8.  To get a feel for the likely success of an informal appeal and whether 100% of them were rejected.

9.  The minutes cannot have been sufficiently clear.

10.  Just to see what the plan was and whether it included longer hours, targeting particular offences etc.

11.  The parking department should produce an annual report and send it to the mayor. If they had done so this question would not have been necessary. The question was so that the trend of income could be looked at accurately.

12.  The circumstances around the appointment of the AD were murky to say the least.

13.  It was not produced in breach of legislation.

14.  This question was about the manner of serving to get a handle on the numbers affixed to vehicle or handed to driver or sent in the post.

15.  This was to see if proper procedures had been followed for a friend who had a PCN. It was won on review at PATAS.

16.  To see if NSL were doing that aspect of their job or just issuing PCN regardless.

17.  The TMO were given to NSL on a memory stick so it was a few minutes work for the council to provide these and then not have to deal with individual requests.

18.  In Woodside Grove there are CPZ bays across people's drives which is rather odd and an explanation would have been useful and appreciated.

19.  This question was asked on someone else's behalf. Next time they can ask their own.

20.  as for 3.

Do these questions strike you as particularly long, complicated, unreasonable, obsessive, difficult, excessive or anything else if all asked in one month or vexatious? Put your view in the comment box below.

The second part of the story will follow soon although Mr Mustard does have to spend some time looking at the 2,000+ page Capita contract for Customer services (NSCSO) which Mr Reasonable asked for and Mr Mustard didn't as he hasn't asked a question of Barnet Council (hello to Governance in TfL, Haringey, Harrow and Islington where he has) since 12 July (which was a request for the locations & numbers of PayByPhone bays which must be in a spreadsheet somewhere: Answer - vexatious!) and he is now free to ask on Parking, Parking Tickets and CPZ's but hasn't. 

Ironically if he had asked for the NSCSO contract, a multi-million pound decade long and controversial outsourcing deal, that would not have been rejected out of hand as being vexatious (it would have been declined on the grounds of future publication which has now happened). Funny old world!

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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