Monday, 31 October 2011

Barnet Council FOI special : You really couldn't make this up

As Councillor Daniel Thomas publicly complained that a blogger was costing Barnet Council £40,000 answering FOI requests. His comments were a vicious slur on the reputation of Mr Mustard, the blogger who has worked tirelessly to expose waste at Barnet Council. When I got a non answer that took 20 days to reply to, I asked them how much this non answer cost to produce.

It seems that whilst Councillor Thomas can tell us how much bloggers cost Barnet Council, they can't actually tell me how much it costs to reply to a single email.  It is patently clear that Councillor Thomas was playing fast and loose with the truth and the taxpayer. I wonder if all of the national media outlets which covered Councillor Thomas comments will now print a retraction and an apology to Mr Mustard for the damage to his reputation, given that there is no basis at all for the claim by Thomas and they should have checked their facts.

I've redacted the name of the officer who sent this as doubtless they are just the messenger.

Here is the reply :-

Dear Mr Tichborne

I am writing in relation to your email to the London Borough of Barnet (the Council) dated 6 October 2011.  I am treating your email dated 6 October 2011, as a request for an internal review as recommended in the Code of Practice made under section 45 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the FOIA), because I have had to review how the Council handled your request for information dated 8 September 2011. This internal review is being processed under the FOIA.  My response to your request for an internal review is below.

You have requested an internal review of the Council’s response in relation to the following:

Please can you provide a full breakdown of all costs associated with providing the answer in your email?

Please also provide a breakdown of the time taken by staff to answer it and an explanation as to why it has taken 20 days to supply an answer refusing to provide the information for this reason.
I acknowledged your request on 11 October 2011.  I have undertaken the requested internal review. The outcome of my review is set out below.


Part 1

I can confirm that the Council does not hold any information in relation to a full breakdown of all costs associated with providing its response dated 6 October 2011. 

Part 2

I can confirm that the Council does not hold any information in relation to a breakdown of time taken by staff to answer your request for information dated 8 September 2011.   Under the FOIA you were entitled to a prompt response which in any event should have been sent within 20 working days from the date your request is received.   However due to a change of staff and staff shortages which has caused a backlog of work within the Corporate Governance Directorate, Standards and Information Rights Team, the Council responded to your request for information within the statutory 20 working days as prescribed by section 10 of the FOIA.  I am satisfied that the Council has complied with its duty under the FOIA. 

Your right of appeal to the Information Commissioner

We consider we have complied with our obligations under the FOIA. However, 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; email; website There is no charge for making an appeal.

Yours sincerely

M**** B*****
Governance Officer
Corporate Governance Directorate
London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1NP
Tel: 020 8359 7***
Barnet Online:
P please consider the environment - do you really need to print this email?

1 comment:

Mr Mustard said...

Thank you Roger for your support ( and which has also arrived from all bloggers ). I have received a perfectly civil email from Cllr Thomas ( a bit of a worry when getting a civil email from a Cllr is cause for feelings of joy ) to which I will reply in the next day or two and put up the whole story on the blog.