UPDATE ~ #FoI ~ When is an undertaking, er… not necessarily an undertaking…?

When it’s been handed to Wirral Council?

Here’s an email I sent to Graham “Mistakes” Burgess, Wirral’s Chief Executive on 25th September 2013…

From: Paul C
Sent: 25 September 2013 21:57
To: ‘Burgess, Graham’
Subject: Freedom of Information undertaking. A public statement of intent

Dear Mr Burgess,

I’d be very grateful if you could point me to your public statement of intent, highlighted within the undertaking that was addressed to you personally by the Information Commissioner in the following terms:

2. The Information Commissioner, having regard to the available evidence, considers that Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council need take steps to ensure that requests for information are dealt with appropriately. In particular he considers that a public statement of intent, facilitated by this Undertaking, will provide assurance that Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council has embraced the culture of openness and transparency the legislation seeks to promote.

Please confirm that you have complied, or will be complying with this term of the undertaking.

If compliance has not yet occurred, please explain the situation, the reasons for any lack of progress, and if the public statement of intent doesn’t yet exist, advise when it is likely to appear.

I would not want to be forced into approaching the Information Commissioner to inform them of yet another failure, neither should I be forced into making FOI requests for information which by its nature, should be openly available, clearly indicated, quickly forthcoming, and fully accessible.

I have not addressed this email to Surjit Tour, as I believe the responsibility lies with you,

Best regards,

Paul Cardin

As you can read in the formal ICO undertaking itself, dated waaaaay back on 9th August, the whole thing was personalised rather by the Information Commissioner,  singling out Graham “Mistakes” Burgess, the man at the helm – and demanding his signature.  That’s why my email went to GB and not to any underling.

It’s his baby.  And we’re now watching his failure to respond.  A fish rots from the head down.

The clock is ticking…

1st October 2013

As Mr Burgess hasn’t acknowledged or responded to my email yet, I sent an email to the ICO today.  This was sent in the form of further evidence defending me against Wirral Council’s suggestion that I’d made a 2nd vexatious Freedom of Information request.

From: Paul C
Sent: 01 October 2013 14:01
To: ‘casework@ico.org.uk’
Cc: ‘Burgess, Graham’
Subject: RE: ICO Complaint [Ref. FS50502536][Ref. FS50502536]

Dear Mr Perry,

I have another piece of information I wish to present as part of my defence regarding Wirral Council’s “vexatious request” accusations.

I sent the attached email to Graham Burgess, Wirral Chief Executive on 25th September 2013.  It sums up how he may be failing, nearly two months hence, to act upon the ICO undertaking dated 9th August 2013, which “in particular”, requested that he issue a “public statement of intent” regarding the council’s intended future behaviour on Freedom of Information.  There has been no such public statement issued as far as I can tell.  If it has been issued, it has not been signposted clearly to the local public.  Neither has he responded as yet to my email.

I believe this to be more evidence of this organisation’s tendency not to treat the area of Freedom of Information with the seriousness it warrants, and instead to find fault with poorly-served members of the public, as opposed to examining its own resources and historical poor performance,

Best regards,

Paul Cardin

As usual, watch this space for any developments, but you know the routine; never hold your breath…………………

2nd October 2013

First reminder email:

From: Paul C
Sent: 02 October 2013 15:08
To: ‘Burgess, Graham’
Subject: FW: Freedom of Information undertaking. A public statement of intent

Dear Mr Burgess,

In line with your role as a public servant, albeit a senior one, I was hoping to receive an explanatory response to the email below, sent a week ago.

If no response arrives this working week, I’ll be forced to lodge another Freedom of Information request – which shouldn’t be necessary, but which may be neatly avoided if you comply,

Best regards,

Paul Cardin

3rd October 2013

An answer has arrived from Jane Corrin, Information Manager:

From: Corrin, Jane

Sent: 03 October 2013 12:36
To: Paul C
Cc: casework@ico.org.uk
Subject: ICO Complaint Ref. FS50502536

Dear Mr. Cardin,

Thank you for your email below.  I have been asked to respond to you, as Graham Burgess is currently on leave.  Please see attached a copy of the ICO undertaking which was signed by The Chief Executive of Wirral Council.  As stated in your request below, the ICO asked for a public statement of intent facilitated by the undertaking.  Please see the 2 links below which take you to the publication, by the regulator of the undertaking he drew up.

http://www.ico.org.uk/enforcement/undertakings    

http://www.ico.org.uk/news/latest_news/2013/Home-Office-monitored-over-FOI-response-times-09082013

In addition to this, a press release was also issued with a statement from Joe Blott, Strategic Director of Transformation & Resources; please see further details at the link below.

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/10603079.Exclusive__Watchdog_orders_Wirral_Council_chief_to_sign__openness_and_transparency__pledge/ 

I hope this information is useful to you.

Kind Regards

Jane Corrin
Information and Central Services Manager
Transformation and Resources
Wirral Council

…but I’d say firing off a press release, watching it appear in the online version of the Wirral Globe, before sitting back, job done…

…is, er…  not quite enough !

From: Paul C
Sent: 03 October 2013 13:59
To: ‘Corrin, Jane’
Cc: ‘Burgess, Graham’; ‘casework@ico.org.uk’
Subject: RE: ICO Complaint Ref. FS50502536

Dear Jane Corrin,

Thanks for your email.  I’d seen that link at the Wirral Globe, but if this press release was the required “public statement of intent”, it was NOT signposted as such.

Please also confirm the full extent of it;   whether the “public statement of intent” (by Joe Blott) was forwarded to / appeared in…

  1. The printed version of the Wirral Globe
  2. The printed version of the Wirral News
  3. The printed version of the Liverpool Echo (Wirral Edition)
  4. The printed version of the Liverpool Daily Post
  5. Any council owned publications
  6. The Wirral Council website
  7. Any other media publications

The wider public’s position will be, if the Joe Blott statement has only appeared in the online Wirral Globe, which appears to be the case, that won’t be enough to REACH, let alone convince the wider public that Graham Burgess’ intention to take the ICO undertaking seriously and improve his performance is genuinely held.

Please supply the full distributed extent of the press release / “public statement of intent” and who it’s been issued to,

Regards,

Paul Cardin

About Wirral In It Together

Campaigner for open government. Wants senior public servants to be honest and courageous. It IS possible!
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