Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Some Thoughts on Passive Aggression

I was talking to a friend the other day and we were laughing about how NCC people who have just shafted you in one way or another suddenly come over all victim mode when you complain and their non-arguments dissolve before their very eyes.

The letter from NCC giving me the further info in response to my FoIA request is quite a good example so let's take the piss out of it for a laugh.

Initially my request was refused on the basis that it would have been necessary to manually look at each and every application for 45 minutes in order to find out how many there were because they apparently had no system to count them in as they arrived.

The trouble with peddling such self evident nonsense is that eventually you have to admit that you were talking bollocks or find some ingenious way of arguing that no, what they were saying was right but they've found a new way of looking at it and have DONE A LOT OF WORK especially for you. At which point I presume you're supposed to feel special and a little bit guilty about putting them to so much trouble.

So the figures for the total number off applications to the DHP scheme was "...information [that] has been generated specifically at the request of the Information Commissioners Office..." and in no way whatsoever was "...information that was readily available or previously held (in this format) by the Council..." and that was why they couldn't tell me before without lots of costly looking through files. Nothing at all to do with embarrassment over the piss-poor success rate of applications from poor people who have probably since been evicted despite a massive underspend of the available budget. Oh no.

But, in a heroic attempt to make me feel better "...a piece of computer program was written..." and amazingly they could get me the info after all.

I kid you not. They really said "...a piece of computer program was written...". You just know that whoever wrote that letter is a real hit with the IT helpdesk with constant calls about how they've saved a document but don't know where and wondering why their computer doesn't work when in fact they've just forgotten to switch the monitor on.

Look, I'm no techie myself but I'm willing to hazaed a guess that the 'piece of computer program' was an enquiry for the database, probably MS Access. A woman I used to work with could sort one of those in a few minutes especially if it was a simple one like 'how many applications have we had'.

And then they go on to explain at some length how the numbers relate only to the number of application forms received which isn't the same as the number of applications because "...some individuals may have need to submit more than one application, therefore some forms received may relate to the same person...". Well, yeah but as far as I can see the only reason why anybody would have to apply more than once is if they were refused the first time and didn't bother asking for a review or their time-limited award ran out. In such cases it's valid to count them as separate applications, I'm not particularly bothered about some being from the same applicant. It also doesn't account for 'human error' either apparently. Of which, being Nottingham City Council, there is probably a lot.

Apparently this is why they initially applied the cost exemption because they thought I wanted an absolutely accurate count and the 'piece of computer program' could only give me an approximate one.

What rot.

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