Thursday, 7 March 2013

How many people does it take to change a lightbulb at Barnet Council? The official response

 On the 8th February I sent a Freedom of Information request to Barnet Council, asking how many people it would take to change a lightbulb in the Leaders office at Barnet Council (and how much it would cost).

Here is the official (non) response. As you can see, they have declined to say how many people are involced or how much the process costs. It seems the council thinks that trying to ascertain information about Council costs and procedures is deemed "humourous" and "vexatious".

As far as I am concerned, the request was neither humourous or vexatious. It was sent to try and ascertain how much bureacracy and resource was involved in managing a simple and easy to understand process. This would enable one to judge whether Barnet Council are efficient with our cash. Clearly, plebs like me are either comedic or vexatious. Sad really, I thought Barnet Council were paid by us, to work for us. Here is there response.


London Borough of Barnet,
North London Business Park,
Oakleigh Road South,
N11 1NP

20 February 2013

 Our ref: 218942


Thank you for your request received on 8 February 2013, for the following information:

Please can you inform me how many people it takes to change a lightbulb in the Leader of Barnet Council's office. Please break this down into :

1. The number of people actually involved in the process of managing and implementing the change of lighbulb
2. The number of people involved in drawing up the contract to manage the changing of the lightbulb.
3. The number of people involved in monitoring the contract to manage the changing of the lightbulb.
4. The number of people involved in health and safety/risk assessments to ensure the lightbulb is safely changed.
5. The number of people involved in procurement of the lightbulb.
6. The number of people involved in storage of the lightbulb.
7. Any other people involved in the changing of the lightbulb who are not covered by ny of the previous six categories.

Please can you also provide estimated costs of changing a lightbulb in the leader of Barnet Councils office, taking account of all of these costs.

We have processed this request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The council is required to respond to a request for recorded information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, regardless of the requester’s intention. A stated humorous request may be judged vexatious under the legislation and refused, but the council is still required to expend resource in responding.

There are no processes involved in lighting maintenance specific to the Leader’s Office and therefore we consider the information requested not held. However, in the spirit of section 16 of the Act, which requires the council to provide advice and assistance to a requester, it may interest you to know that with respect to office areas within the council offices, the changing of a lightbulb would require a call being raised with the council’s facilities team resulting in an individual custodian being sent to change the bulb. Said custodian will employ appropriate and safe measures to change the lightbulb. Changing a lightbulb is part of the role of custodian, not requiring a separate contract. We hope that this sheds some light on the matter for you.

Your rights

If you are unhappy with the way your request for information has been handled, you can request a review within the next 20 working days by writing to the FOI Officer at: The London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London, N11 1NP (email

If, having exhausted our review procedure, you remain dissatisfied with the handling of your request or complaint, you will have a right to appeal to the Information Commissioner at: The Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF (telephone: 0303 123 1113; website  There is no charge for making an appeal.


LBB said...

Has your blog been hacked Rog??

"How many people does it take to change a lightbulb." Really???

Rog T said...


Nope, has yours?

Andrew Rush said...

"We hope that this sheds some light on the matter for you." There may yet be someone human left at Barnet Council!

Rog T said...


Humour and an answer would be appreciated

Morris Hickey said...

Interesting, from my point of view Rog, that the word "vexatious" has crept in to this. It plays a major part in the policy of another authority and the failure of it and its members to respond to inquiries from the public.

A member of Barnet council used to be a member of that authority, and another Barnet councillor is an officer of that authority.

Any connection do you think?

Mr Mustard said...

Hello Morris (& world)

Barnet Council are fond of the deemed vexatious exemption as they used it against me 23 times in Sept/Oct 12.

It takes some doing I can tell you to find 23 really troublesome questions in 2 months but I managed it with questions like "how many parking tickets were given out on the following days" (and there were less than 10 dates listed)

According to Mrs Angry I am not vexatious but I am vexing.

Refusing pretty much all of my questions for that period has, in effect, gagged me and I have been obliged to complain to the Information Commissioner.

Barnet Council don't know what to do about its bloggers and denigrating them seems to be the default setting. If better policies were followed criticism would fade away.

Morris Hickey said...

The "vexatious behaviour" policy of the Greater London Authority (it can be viewed on their website) seems to me to be little more than protection for parasites at City Hall (both elected and unelected) in their pursuit of fat salaries for no work.