Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The Gift that Keeps on Giving...

A recurring theme of this blog is how NCC likes to help out old friends. After all, if a consultant gives you the answer you told them to before it makes sense to get them to do it again right? What's not to like about that?

And so it appears to be going with old pals Invigor8 (I still can't get the X-Factor boy band contestant image out of my head). Having helped smooth things over the on the 'culture' issue I wrote about how they were now coining it in with training contracts which were exempted from the usual tendering requirements.

And you know what? They've only gone and bloody done it again haven't they?

Last time it was only worth £15k, however, in this latest round they will trouser £95k.

Now why would there be a decision to award a £15k training contract only for there to be another one less than 2 months later for the same thing but this time for £95k? There's a spectacular project management fail if your initial estimate of cost goes from £15k to £110k in seven weeks. Surely when you're planning a training project of this size you'd have a pretty good idea of how much the total cost would be at the outset?

Smells like a little bit of rat to me, I shall be keeping an eye on any more non-tendered contracts for Invigor8 from now on. If anybody has any inside info please let me know via the email link, discretion assured.

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.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Discretionary Housing Payments - Answers at Last

Before we talk about the latest developments I'd recommend that you have a look at these posts for a bit of background first -

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

So there you go, the complete NCCLols history of badgering NCC about DHPs. And you could almost argue that some progress has been made too.

Until now however, there was a sizeable gap in the information we had about how well NCC were doing with DHPs and that was, surprisingly, the total number of applications made to the scheme.

I say surprisingly because surely that is the easiest and most obvious bit of information to record isn't it? How can you manage the performance of any application based scheme if you don't even know how many people have applied to it?

Well, now the Information Commissioner's Office has told NCC to spill those beans so we can finally complete the table we started so long ago back in Part 1.

The key result of this is that we can at last see the success rates of appliations to the scheme.

As you can see, and as we suspected before, application success rates were decidedly low despite a massive underspend of the budget. Ignoring the first and last years in the table (neither are typical, see notes on chart for reasons) we can see that the success rate varied between 21.2% and 41.4%. 2005/6 sticks out, having the highest number of applications (569) and the second lowest success rate (25%) despite only 23% of the budget having been spent. And this despite that budget having been reduced two years in a row prior to this year.

The only silver lining is that the success rates of applications does appear to have risen in later years, although I'm not at all confident of the figures for 2008/9. However, we can probably afford to give them the benefit of the doubt on this one.

I've not had the final decision from the ICO yet, these figures came direct from NCC on the instructions of the ICO. I may write a bit more if that throws up any more interesting issues.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Video giggles

Not really been covering the spat between City and County councils over the football stadium and that but have to put this in...

Props to Cllr Alex Foster via Twitter for posting this.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009


Been hit by a wave of spam promoting A4Eblog which is pretty offensive as you can imagine.

Have therefore switched comments to registered users (inc Open ID) but if that doesn't stop it may go into lockdown to make them go away. Have also contacted the company to ask them to sod off.


Monday, 21 September 2009

They Tried to Take Our Parks Away...

Now I only said I was going to be a bit quiet, not that I would disappear completely.

So, I'm popping in to sing the praises of a small community group who I'd only vaguely heard of before, 'Friends of the Forest' (that's just a brief Wiki mention unfortunately, they don't seem to have a website).

As well as playing a big part in the ongoing restoration of the Forest Recreation Ground they had a little run in with NCC concerning the Arboretum, as the 'Post' reports.

It seems that Nottingham High School had been using a bit of the Arboretum as a car park with the full blessing of NCC.

FotF correctly thought that this breached the terms of the relevant Enclosure Act which set aside the Arboretum and the Forest (amongst other pieces of land) exclusively for recreation. In order to bolster their case they asked NCC for a copy of its own legal advice on the matter but, predictably, they were refused. NCC considered that it was subject to 'legal professional privilege' and that there were 'commercial interests' at stake.

Enter the Information Commissioner who issued a decision telling NCC to fess up pronto and it's another victory for the little guy. Cue weasel words from NCC spokesdroids such as "it was temporary" and "reviewing our options" and the like.

What interests me is where does this leave the Park and Ride on the Forest? Of course, pre-tram it was significantly larger but I was once told that NCC had once been subject to some form of action on a similar basis about it i.e. it was in breach of the relevant Enclosure Act. I've searched and searched on the interwebs to find anything but to no avail so if anybody has any info I'd be pleased to hear from you.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Been a bit quiet...

There's not been much from me recently as you may have noticed. Few real world issues been getting in the way, my health has been very up and down, funeral, my birthday and some 'issues' to deal with. It'll probably stay this way for a while but hope to be back up and running at full speed soon.

In the meantime, have a good LOL at Cllr Ahmed, who used to be Cllr Chapman's mini-me but is now a big grown up Executive Portfolio holder himself. The 'Post' has caught him not declaring his numerous business interests in training organisations, two of which have received NCC money apparently. As the 'Post' points out, he could be referred to the standards committee. I bet he's shitting himself (irony alert). Especially as the standards committee still appear to AWOL.

I should also have written about the silly goings on between the City and County Councils over the proposed new stadium, but it's much easier to just link to m'colleague Alan a Dale who's done a good piece on it. Hope he doesn't mind.

Like I say, don't expect a lot from me for a while but I will be back when my blogging mojo returns.