Thursday, 19 June 2014

Thanet street cleaning staff reduced from 63 in 2009 to 43 now and a look at how TDC handles a simple foi request.


And here is the pertinent bit:

“1. The total equivalent number of full time staff employed by the council
undertaking the street cleaning service (including mechanical sweeping and
hit squad/ response work) and below this the numbers of those staff within
this total working on sweeping the streets on foot in Ramsgate, Margate
and Broadstairs for each year over the last five years:


Street Cleansing – Number of full time staff (or equivalent)

Year 08/09    09/10     10/11      11/12     12/13      13/14
Overall Staff no 63    67      58      55      49       43
 a. Ramsgate 13    13      12      12       9      10
 b. Margate 14   14     13      13       11        9

 c. Broadstairs 4    5      4      4       2        2”

I think any doubt about the amount of public interest in this foi request can be resolved by looking at my webstats today.

107 comments:

  1. So to be clear, TDC has to spend an inordinate amount of time and cash, trawling through 5 year old data, to produce pointlessly pedantic minutia about numbers of street sweepers, at some cost no doubt, and taking TDC employee's away from the jobs they would otherwise be doing, so that someone with far to much time on their hands can then criticize them for not doing the job he thinks they should, but would also no doubt be one of the 1st to complain equally as loudly if the council tax was to rise sufficiently to have kept the same number of street cleaners...

    And some wonder why Thanet never progresses past pointless bickering and childish attempts at pointscoring, with no suggestion as to how a more favourable outcome can be achieved.

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    1. It's not pedantic to those who never see street sweepers where they live anymore. Presumably you're one of the lucky ones.

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    2. How did the port lose the shipping records for a year and the backup data? Is this not provided to council each month

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    3. Wouldn't the port office alos email the records to TDC? These would be then on the email server at TDC too? Sounds like the port is tryign to cover up inaction and failure. They've known for over a year - and before. Transeurope were in trouble/gone - what have they done except hide the data? If it is deliberate inaction then the sack is required and replace them with better or not.

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    7. Anon read the comment guidelines below, while children are welcome to comment here, playground behaviour like calling people by their surnames only is not allowed.

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    8. Sounds as if you're worried about disscussing the EKo and Kcc points raised

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  2. This is my FOI. I want to know which streets in Ramsgate are cleaned regularly and which are only cleaned on request. As a taxpayer, I believe (and the FOI Act 2000 supports me in this belief) that I am entitled to get data about services from local authorities.

    TDC did not have to spend an 'inordinate amount of time and effort' on this: if it was too expensive they could have issued a refusal notice saying that it would be too expensive to reply and/or that the information was not held. What actually happened was that they repeatedly refused to answer the questions and delayed until threatened with contempt of court by the Information Commissioner, finally responding months late with a valid reply as prescribed by the FOI Act 2000.

    Unlike Michael, I actually think the more interesting data is in the data file they have sent, which lists which streets in Ramsgate are actually being cleaned regularly. I have yet to analyse this, but I fundamentally believe that residents are entitled to know if their streets are being cleaned or whether TDC only clean them on request, so I will be publicising a map showing this data clearly.

    More importantly I will also be holding my local councillors to account for rubbish that piles up unchecked on streets in my area.

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    1. Joe when you get around to the map and analysing the data please either send it to me or the link to where you have published it.

      Not sure where you got the notion of what I though was interesting and what I thought wasn’t, perhaps I missed something there.

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    2. only from you saying that the above is the "pertinent bit". I don't think it is.

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    3. Ah see what you mean Joe, perhaps I should have said the above was the bit I read before I decided to bung it up on the blog so local people would be more likely to find it. After that ‘fraid to say my children intervened, followed by the bookshop this morning, and it is only just now that I have had a chance to download the Excel doc within the request response on the what do they know site, which I do concede is at least equally interesting and perhaps more so depending on which street you live in.

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    4. Ann Barnes fails to impress says David Cameron on BBC: should there be more FOI there too?

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  3. Perhaps if you spent the time that you used hassling various bodies with 45 FOI's you might notice whether the street outside had been swept or not? I'm sure 5 years worth of staff levels in the street sweeping department were not simply laying at the TDC staff fingertips just in case someone should wonder how many there were, and no time or money was spent compiling such data.

    I'm sure that those with the opion that their street is dirty will know when it's swept, and those that don't won't care, thus making your no doubt pretty and eagerly awaited map as pointless as the FOI that generated it.

    Your FOI hobby, whilst no doubt amusing to you, clearly has a cost which taxpayers not only in Thanet, but Wolverhampton, Bristol, Kent and viewers of the BBC, not to mention Kent police, the Royal Mail, various schools and a hospital in Manchester, the Border Agency, NHS to name but a few, have to bear, and of course far better things to do with their staff and budget that to answer pointless FOI requests.

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    1. It probably took them about as long as it took you to type that message to find the required info.

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    2. As I didn;t have to trawl out 5 year old information, and lists of streets, that is somewhat unlikely, and of course I'm not being paid tax £'s to do a job, that hunting down such irrelevant information is keeping me from doing, that in due course will no doubt be the cause of future complaints and FOI requests.

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    3. FOI is the law in case you forget and is meant to help reduce public sector waste of our tax. More FOI is needed not secrecy. How many staff at TDC by department and salaries?

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    4. Yes it is 10:33. I wonder how dealing with any number of inane FOI's of subjects as diverse as Street cleaning and terrorist shooting ranges has improved Thanet for anyone, or how much better the funds used to deal with such FOI's could have been better spent.

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    5. I don't much care for your tone, anon. It is not a hobby, I am exercising my lawful right to information. I suggest you take care what else you say about me.

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    6. Anon 10:33 am,

      You should know that something being the law does not place it above criticism, that is the law.

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    7. There is a difference between criticising my actions and making an attack on my character. I don't much care for your opinions on my FOI requests, but your attacks on my character are entirely spurious given that I am doing a purely legal activity.

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    8. You are completely correct 10:44 and 11:17 but why is witholding coumcil information preferred, for that is what you are arguing for? I;m sure there will be some inane FOI requests - but even these could be reduced by publishing all the main council information on the website such as the street cleaning rosters, salaries etc. We all know that the publci secotr relies on secrecy to do what it likes rather than face scrutiny or do what we want. FOI requires disclosure now - look at the fuss over TDC trying to preventing filming meetings etc ofr the old way.

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    9. I'm sorry Mt Turner, but I don;t much care about your your opinion of my "tone".

      I suggest your time would be better spent finding a hobby that doesn't cost taxpayers an inordinate amount of cash that could and should be spent on the services these bodies could be providing better if they didn't have to waste time dealing with sprurious FOI's that achieve precisely nothing.

      It's not a question of with holding 1:11, it's a question of not needing nor there being any point in going to the time, expense and trouble of posting such inane irrelevance as the route of a street cleaner!

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    10. What;s wrong with knowing how many street cleaners are employed by the council? Then we can decide if that's too many/few/cheap/expensive etc. Same with the routes: if it's meant to be cleaned on a Wednesday etc then has it been cleaned?

      It would cost almost nothing to post the info on the TDC website and update it each month - that must happen anyway presumably?

      You seem to have the same strange view as councillors that the public should be excluded form knowing what is done with their tax money. Especially given TDC's abysmal record as a council - and it is the law. Let's have the wages and pensions and expenses etc info too. it must exist at TDC - do the councillors not see it?

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    11. So anon 5:52pm (wherever you live and work) you think Joe's request is a waste of time. Had they answered the question in the format finally received the 1st time it was requested they wouldn't have wasted anyone's time.
      As you do not say what part of the council you work for it is difficult to make a judgement on your take on the matter but plenty of residents, who has expressed an opinion, are mightily fed up in having to complain (which is a waste of their time) just to get their residential street swept. This is TDC policy at present and when residential streets are only swept re-actively it is time to re-employ street sweepers laid off

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    12. It is not a hobby. It is a legal right to request information about services.

      Whether you like it or not, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 gives me the right to ask any public body for information. I happen to believe this is a public service hence I ask questions in public. What you think matters not a jot compared to what the law says.

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    13. And if the info was on the TDC website in the first place nobody would have to ask for it and could make sensible comments on it.

      Hiding FOI is simply TDC etc wanting to protect their position and salaries - that we fund and vote on. TDC should publish everything and set an example of a rubbish council turning the corner and beginning to improve. Did councilors ever vote to allow filming etc of meetings or has that been forgotten too?

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    14. As I have already stated Barry, I don’t work for TDC or any other council (or street sweeping company before someone dreams that up).

      If the street sweeping situation is as dire as you claim it to be, I would think that whether TDC had 43 or 43,000 sweepers, they will attract exactly the same level of a attack by someone looking for a means to attack them.

      Joe, the fact that your hobby involves exercising a legal right simply puts your hobby on the same level as others who choose to ramble at weekends. The only difference is that your hobby takes people away from their proper jobs, in a vast array of different public and non public bodies to service your numerous vexatious FOI's, which serve no useful purpose whatsoever, except to waste time and money that could be a lot better spent.

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    15. You must be Sue Macgonigal 8:43 - why would people complain if the streets were swept? Why is FOI not a proper job - although it could be done more easily? Why is the public sector reviewing the services they fund not useful? Next you'll be saying there is no corruption at TDC and everything is wonderful

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    16. Because it seems that some in Thanet live and breathe to moan and gripe. I wonder if it's good value for money to spend tax payer cash (in short supply) on someone just to provide answers to pointless FOI requests for someone exercising their chosen hobby, perhaps the money spent on that particular endeavor would be better spent on a street sweeper.

      I numerous claims about corruption at TDC on these and other blogs, yet apart from a criminal TDC leader, I have yet to see any of these claims backed by anything other than the claim itself. It seems that some are simply prepared to take the claim as an airtight case for immediate conviction without trial. Not even dozens of FOI's seem to have provided anything further or more weighty to substantiate the claims being made. Wonder why it's always simply been claims with nothing further to flesh them out..

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    17. Joe I think you may have encountered a councillor here, and I think he will want tohave the last word, personally I thought this a particularly useful foi request and good on you for making it. Particularly handy if you want to know whether to call for the rubbish hit team or if they are going to come along anyway

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    18. Sorry to disappoint Michael, but I wouldn't be a TDC councillor for £1,000,000 a week!

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    19. Well anon I guess anyone who feels that this type of foi, which particularly when you consider that staffing levels must exist to provide for the around a thousand foi requests the council deals with a year, must have an unusual motive.

      The costs of foi requests come out like this January to December 2013 the total cost of time spent on 845 FOI enquiries was £59,112. This represented an average of £70 per enquiry. Before you ask I didn’t have to foi this info it’s on the council’s website, if of course you can find it there.

      I have my doubts that those not on the Thanet electoral roll should be able to get information for free and on the few occasions I have made foi requests I have offered to pay for the information after it has become a few months late.

      But frankly the underlying problem is that most of the information the council holds on it’s intranet should be in the public domain and on their website, I would think in most cases involving companies who want commercial information kept secret they should have to pay for the secrecy.

      But I think the key question is are we paying for the information or the secrecy?

      Oh and another question, how much would you be a TDC councillor for? Special responsibility allowance, plus of course the perception that you are to some extent in control of something or another.

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    20. I guess the fact that this FOI request was deemed newsworthy has p*ssed someone off. http://www.thanetgazette.co.uk/Street-cleaners-fall/story-21269108-detail/story.html

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    21. anon its your opinion the FOI is a waste of money however your opinion is as much use as a chocolate fireguard and about as useful. The proof is in how much interest this generates on here on FB and in the press.

      maybe you could get a job with TDC acting as a censor on what, in your opinion, is of interest I'm sure you can sell that to TDC they certainly waste plenty of time hiding information that should be in the public domain

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    22. We could do with some Foi on pollution statistics too

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    23. Well anon 2:12 pm, you're not going to find them by posting on here. So, you know what to do.

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    24. We were waiting for you 2:23 unless you're not affected by pollution

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    25. Anon 3:02pm

      There is no we where your lonely self is concerned.

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    26. Yes 3:32 why don't you Foi request the pollution statistics? Which town do you live in

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    27. Its funny 3 different people think that one particular anon is a councillor and they deny it yet its an anon denying where is there any evidence that that anon is telling the truth because they would deny it wouldn't they

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    28. Probably cllr Epps twiddling his thumbs now he's quit

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    29. Wrong as always, 9:33, I have not quit, simply will not stand again at the end of my present term of officer being May 2015. Mind you, I am not TDC, just a Broadstairs town councillor.

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    30. Sounds like you're inflating your role to officer William but how many binmen/street cleaners at TDC and/or BTC? You must know as a councillor for the last year or so.

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    31. Hmm I wonder what better ways could be found to spend nearly £60k, 3 or 4 sweepers perhaps?

      I'm not sure I would support the added expense of employing someone to deal with these pointless FOI requests, or expanding (with consequent extra cost) the TDC web presence simply so a small minority can indulge in their hobby.

      Your concern about cost for providing FOI information to those not on the Thanet electoral roll is noted. I'm sure Mr Turner would be upset to find his various inconsequential annoyances of bodies up and down the land started to actually cost him money, and not only the bodies whose time is wasted. Nice graphic by the way, but 218 page views is hardly a mass stampede to elicit hard won facts, the lack of page views for the other threads merely illustrates that there is even less interest in school debate, hardly an earth shattering revelation.

      Not for any level of wages Michael. The abuse and baseless (given the evidence provided) accusations of corruption, with little to no fear of repercussions for those making many and various accusations makes the job simply untenable to anyone with interests in the real world outside of local politics.

      Thank you for your comments Barry, but as they have less value than an Ian Driver statement of allegance, I shall of course ignore them. Perhaps if litter is such a high priority for you, you such undertake the role profssionally, I'm sure you could rise to the challenge.

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    32. Council FOI costs are invariably inflated...as the role is already employed/shared and arguably what should be done anyway. You ignore the point that such costs could be reduced to zero by placing such information on the website? You also ignore the law that requires transparency and seem to be keen on maintaining secrecy of public costs?

      Why not publish council staffing. salaries, pensions, cars and expenses?

      And it does seem as though councilors haven't had such information nor ask for it. What are they doing in council meetings?

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    33. Inflated, really? I believe the figure Michael quoted was some 800+ requests for £59,000. £80 per request, I don;t see that that would be inflated, given that the level of detail in some of these pointless and vexatious requests is at such a detailed level it would take many hours by many people who have far better things to do that facilitate a hobby that someone chooses to inflict on official bodies.

      Reduced to Zero, really, do you think that information simply appears by magic on the internet? I believe there is an FOI asking for any and all details of every aspect of every cost of the TDC website amoungst Mr Turner's pleathora of FOI's. I wonder how much extra time and trouble, not to mention hosting and site construction time and cost would be involved in putting every stationary reciept online to facilitate this hobby?

      As you no doubt know, these items can be inspected in person. I would suggest if the routes of street sweepers have assumed such am importance in someone's daily life, they jump on the bus, and waste their own time researching the matter, rather than tying up people on a foold errand, and then critising them for not doing their job.

      There's no secrecy here, just few care about this issue to this level, and even less (if any) about the rest of Mr Turner's (as well as most of the other 800 FOI's) issues with TDC.

      I wonder why you think that peoples personal renumeration should be published online. Why that so the elected councillors can be 2nd guessed by people who think they can do better but in reality simply snipe from the sidelines.

      For instance, I wonder what possible concern the expenditure of Wolverhampton council could be to a Thanet resident, but the cost of that particualr FOI must STILL be bourne by the taxpayers of the midlands.

      I think you'll find they are trying to run the council, not mithering over the cost of every individual paperclip.

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    34. Inflated yes: £80 an hour when the minimum wage is c.£5 means about 16 hours to find some paperwork. Come off it.

      Reduced to zero, yes: the paperwork exists on salaries etc so posting it once on the website would end the supposed £80 an hour in finding it for each request.

      Inspect the files in person, why? It can be posted on the council website and would be far cheaper than a clerk having to deal wiht each person and then no doubt have to email or post the info later.

      Post public salaries online? They already are for the senior salaries (and it's the FOI law to reveal public costs) why not the rest then we can all evaluate if our tax is well-spent.

      I hope you're not a councillor as you seem incompetent.

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    35. The minimum wage is in fact £6.31, seems incompetence is not my failing.

      You really think that the person dragging together disparate and in a lot of cases, complex information, and huge amounts of it are on minimum wage? how does it go "come off it".

      The paperwork exists no matter what, there's nothing stopping people doing their own research into their own little pet annoyances, in Mr Turners case, on a national basis. You are aware that information changes regularly, or why ask for many years of back figures at great cost in time and wages...

      Why inspect files in person? So that those making a hobby of dragging irrelevant, out for their own amusement can bear the cost, while the rest of us enjoy the fruits of the labours of we people currently having their time wasted on fools errands resulting from FOI's.

      I would strongly doubt the ability of most of the people lodging FOI's, and certainly your ability to make a real world judgement, and make a fair evaluation of how money is spent by the council. If you don’t like how it's spent, why not run for election, instead of sniping from the sidelines, from where it's very easy to critisise, when you have no responsibility to actually do anything useful.

      I might actually vote for you, in the hope you'd get elected, so the amusement of watching you sinking without trace could be enjoyed by all.

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    36. Not that I have to justify myself to you, anon, but unlike some I have not always lived in Thanet.

      And according to the law and the Information Commissioner, the correct format for response to an FOI is electronically if the request is made electronically. Again, if you want to change this, you need to get yourself elected to parliament.

      I can't really understand why you think holding local authorities to account for public spending is a waste of time but commenting endlessly on the thing you don't like, making the same point over and over again, is not.

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    37. Is that a fact Joe? - vis-a-vis the questions asked electronically must be answered in kind? Simon Thomas's reply to my FOI was that I must go to Council Offices and trawl through years worth of files to get the information I want? He knows I will not have the time to do that. All I wish to do is compare and contrast electronically all the cases where planning permission has been granted against policy around Manston since the mid 1990's? I would then be in a position to show to my readers how the system has been abused

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    38. Yes but the information must already exist. Unless someone has already assessed each application against policy, they do not have to do it for you. What they are saying is that doing what you have asked would take someone to go through each file. This is not FOIable.

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    39. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    40. Do you have proof of your allegations of criminal activity, or are you just another Tim or Rick?

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    41. The only thing I would like to edit out is "a few of the players/associates live there". It was not my intention to blacken the name of the residents of Valley Road by inferred criminal association, although some have undoubtedly benefitted from departures from Planning Policy in the road. Unfortunately there is no edit facility on blogger comments as there are on Facebook

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    42. Thank you for your mystifying comment Mr Turner.

      Unless you managed to live in Kent, Bristol, Wolverhampton and Pendle in the space of around 30 days, it isn't clear why where you were living would have any effect on the excessive exercising of your FOI hobby.

      I'm sure that that is the case re replies to usual FOI requests. But to those simply following their chosen hobby such as yourself, and causing tax payers up and down the country to pay for them indulging in that hobby, a simple invitation to attend the relevant office, and carry out your own research, wasting your own time, and at your own expense would certainly be a course of action supported by many many tax payers struggling to pay their council tax.

      I'm sure you think a glorious technicolour map of the routes of street sweepers is "holding local authorities to account". I wonder how the post office and Top Gear fall under the banner of "holding local authorities to account".

      I would suggest that if you insist in trying to find a way to make yourself seem important, either stand for election, or fund your own hobby.

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    43. Solo Gays, I have no comment as to the reasons behind your campaign, but the FOI request you have put in is not valid and will be rejected. I am not in a position to discuss with you the allegations you make.

      Anon I do not have to justify anything to you, see above ad nauseum.

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    44. Furthermore any taxpayer can FOI any public body. If you don't like it, enter Parliament and change the law.

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    45. Look SG the issue from my point of view is that this isn’t the right place to make any sort of allegation about the activities of individuals, this is nothing whatsoever to do with the rights or wrongs of the situation, but is down to my not having the time or resources to check the information.

      This also applies to those who may or may not be Rick or anyone else for that matter, obviously if you are sure of your facts and have the money and time to defend a lengthily libel action through the courts then publish the accusations on your own blog and if you haven’t got one then get one.

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    46. I have deleted my comment Joe since I have made the point I wished to make, and it is now stored elsewhere.

      You have started a much needed discussion, but I also have some sympathy with 9.28's view, in that we should all be asking the question as to where do we go with our FOI's? Certainly if doing them online they are there to be shared (if anyone is interested enough to get involved?). And in my own affairs I am merely chiming in with the exasperation of others over what has become of us. If Ian Driver could somehow get enough of us Bloggers and commenters together I would stand as a Councillor, since we born and breds all must share in the blame for letting the current crop do as they like.

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    47. You want Yorkshireman Ian Driver to represent the born and bred of Thanet???

      Perhaps you should be asking Mick "Mr Margate" Tomlinson instead.

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    48. I notice Ian has made a point of making it clear that his views should not be interpreted as being that of his party. Green Party Members decide policy.

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    49. Other blogging cllrs such as Simon Moores also make this clear.

      As for Green Party Members deciding policy... so do UKIP members.

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    50. I admire anyone standing, but not family dynasties and double hatters. Affiliations need to be deeper than politics and family, so as you would expect a classical rainbow alliance appeals to me. I live in hope.

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    51. Surely worse still are those opportunists that hop from one party to another, regardless of what the public voted for? The people of Birchington who thought they were getting a Tory cllr shouldn't now have a Labour cllr with left wing policies.

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    52. I like Tony Flaigs recent comments about needing to know more about the person and what motivates them, rather than their current political affiliations. But the party selection process needs to be more aware here, why put someone forward you are not quite sure of just because it fills a place? Very naive, dishonest and dangerous methinks.

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    53. You would be very suitable for politics, as you never give a direct reply.

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    54. well, I have tried to answer your abstract line of questioning about where accountability should lie, which should be with engaged grassroots organisations, in my opinion.

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    55. You tried to justify the cost of your hobby by where you live Mr Turner, not I.

      I wonder what the answer would be if I were to take up your hobby, and initiate a series of FOI's to ascertain how much taxpayer (nay MANY other contributers) money your hobby has thus far wasted. Happily, I have other interests in life, and such minutia is not worth my time persuing, you might want to perhaps follow that train of thought sometime Mr Turner, and save taxpayers up and downb the land a pretty penny.

      I have to agree with you Mr Checksfield. It must be a constant source of wonder for the constituents or Northwood as to what party will be "representing" them today.

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    56. Yeah whatever. Of course the main cost to TDC is in answering FOI requests rather than losses associated with the ferry and other expensive scandals. I'll not be responding to any further comments from you.

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    57. Interesting Mr Turner, you're argument seems to rest on the premise that if you find someone that has lost £10, it's ok to take £5 from him, for no other reason than you can.

      Trying to drag in other "scandals" doesn't excuse you wasting taxpayers money, any more than if i were to suggest you concern yourself with larger issues than where street sweepers and tasked to sweep. But I would suggest that to prosecute your hobby, you use your own funds, and let councils and the many other bodies you have needlessly hassled, use their income for it's intended purpose.

      No problem at all, those FOI's won't write themselves!

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    58. Michael, I have answered this point numerous times. I request that you stop anonymous commentators from continuing to repeatedly attacking me. Fair enough this person does not like the Freedom of Information Act but nothing I have done is harassment nor vexatious nor scandalous nor illegal. Repeatedly making these claims is a personal attack on me.

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    59. OK Joe I have stopped further comments on this post

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    60. Joe apologies about this one, I have just had a chance to read the whole exchange through, I think you have been the victim of an internet troll who probably posts a completely different opinion elsewhere to get attention and may even have been disagreeing with themselves in the same thread.

      Difficult obviously I should have deleted their comments immediately and now they are tied in with other comments, so if you want the thread deleted, or selective deletions, email me link on the sidebar. The underlying problem is that administering the blog in changing times and with an increasing readership is a learning process for me.

      I can’t think that there can be many people of any political persuasion that actually would want secret and closed government at any level and guess our rather sad troll would be one of the first to scream the loudest if this were to happen.

      Obviously there are vexatious and disturbed people who make vexatious foi requests and there is a system to deal with this. Just as obviously your fio requests are both sensible and reasonable, but as you see there are also vexatious and disturbed internet trolls.

      I guess if anything the whole exchange has encouraged me to use the foi facilities more extensively.

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  4. Most big firms have their employment records computerised, so if it took them longer than a few minutes then there's something seriously wrong with their organisation skills. Ditto which streets are regularly cleaned. Anyway must go, as I need to sweep up outside my house because no-one else will do it!!!

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  5. Anon 20 June 9:40 am,

    You have really got the bit between your teeth. Would I be correct in concluding that your strident objection to FOIs stems from your employment with TDC or similar? In this I can see your point. I imagine that working in local government would be a wonderful if job if one did not have to answer to the public. The public are a damn nuisance and should leave you alone to do what you know is best for them. I appreciate that such an authoritarian attitude is rampant in a few quarters.

    Or maybe you are just a casual bystander without better things to do than to write on blogs. Which in some ways describes me. But I am a taxpayer and in principle support FOIs. Are you a taxpayer, if not your argument stumbles.

    I realise that I have given you the wrong kind of answer. I should have politely explained the virtues of an FOI, of which there are many. However, I am not sure you would have listened. You appear to have an unswerving fundamental approach to the evils of the FOI.

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    1. I have no objection to the FOI process in principle, nor do I work for TDC or similar. I merely object to the misuse of FOI's as in this case, and the waste of time and money such vexatious FOI's cause, that could and should be spent on other far more worthwhile activities.

      I wonder what could have been done with the time that TDC has had to spend on the 175 FOI's, reviews, enquiries and appeals it has had to deal with.

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    2. Anon 10:40 am,

      May I ask by what criteria you differentiate between a vexatious FOI and one that is legitimate?

      You say that you do not work for TDC, but would I be correct in concluding that you have a close connection with someone who does? Otherwise how would you know the number of FOIs that TDC has processed. Unless you lodged an FOI on this subject perhaps?

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    3. The Information Commissioner has a very well defined definition of vexatious which has been held up by the relevant High Court.

      None of my FOIs have been judged vexatious because none of them are vexatious. Some of them are awkward and some authorities and individuals do not like answering questions. Again, tough cookie, if you don't like it get elected to Parliament and change the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

      Until that time, everyone has the right to ask questions of public authorities.

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    4. anon 10:40 am

      Further to my earlier comments: if the answer should be that you are simply standing up for a close relative who spends their day flogging away on FOIs then who could blame you, certainly not me. I can appreciate that the public at times can be a bloody nuisance. However I suggest that with a little extra effort they are easily mollified

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    5. Simple 10:57, follow the link at the top of the page, then click on Thanet Council, it's not difficult.

      I would define a non vexatious FOI as one that reveals somekind of important information that has a large bearing on someones life. The amount of street sweepers in Thanet really doesn;t cut it.

      As for non vexatious, I would agree with you Mr Turner, had you not hassled everyone from the Post Office to Wolverhampton Council, and even when told your FOI isn't a well founded one, you continue to hassle said bodies causing more time work and cash to be wasted complaining to anyone that will listen. I would really seek a more fulfilling hobby, that isn't so damaging to the interests of those paying for the services you cause to be degraded.

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    6. Again, it makes no difference what you consider vexatious. The law states clearly what is and what is not, hence I do not have to justify to anyone the public bodies I choose to request information from. There is nothing damaging with exercising a democratic right to information, which I have done in public. What you think about it carries no weight whatsoever.

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    7. Another nail in Manston's coffin: Buchanan resigns as Director of Gloag/Kent Facilities. So much of thousands of jobs and presumably we have to clean up the pollution he ignored?

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    8. It will carry at least as much as your long and eagerly awaited (by nobody ever) map of the routes of council street sweepers. Find a new hobby.

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    9. Manston is not as polluted as Thor.

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    10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    11. The FOI process has been invaluable in allowing ordinary citizens and journalists to winkle out truths which the great and the good would prefer to remain hidden. If politicians say that they have maintained levels of employment we would all like to be able to see the data that backs this up. The reason that we are now interested in the data is that politicians have lied and cheated so often that we can no longer trust what they say to be true. We want to be able to make our own judgements. This is a very healthy development and I don't think that the costs associated with FOI are significant in relation to the benefits in terms of the engagement of people in the democratic process.

      I would say that, in my opinion, TDC has always been reluctant to comply with the FOI process and has often sought to avoid giving the relevant information. On more than one occasion, they have been criticised by the information commissioner. Under Richard Samuels, the council squirmed and wriggled to avoid giving information, and invented ludicrous figures for the costsd of complying with FOI requests; figures which would have been much lower if they had been more co-operative. In short, if there is an issue with costs, TDC needs to look at how it deals with these requests and find a more efficient and effective way of allowing people to access the information. One way of doing this is to put all of the data online so that people can look it up for themselves.

      It seems to me that information about the number of street cleaners is something that should have been dug out in about five minutes. Somebody at the council must be responsible for this aspect of the council's activities and, if they don't know how many people they have working for them, they aren't really very good at their job.

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    12. Is the missing Port information an error or a lie?

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    13. Either way after a year of doing nothing they should be sacked

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    14. I'm sure it has 8:59, but sadly such processes that begin with laudable intent, quickly become abused by those with far too much time on their hands, and an axe to grind.

      I wonder if you could give me exact figures on ever changing figures, and minute pedantic detail of minutia from 5 years ago, without having to trawl it up, with consequent time and cost considerations? Perhaps the weekly stationary and bog roll bill could be dutifully placed online for someone somewhere to critisise as part of his hobby?

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  6. 50 street cleaners? How many binmen? 50 more? What are the other 550 tdc staff doing?

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    1. Is it 21 street cleaners plus 22 admin staff or are the 22 the binmen

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    2. It cannot be more admin staff than cleaners can it? What would they be doing

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    3. The rest of them spend all their time answering foi requests.

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  7. Thank you Rick, but I wanted to know what the other chap thought?

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  8. This seems to be the start of some socially useful postings Michael. A relative of mine has started to make FOI requests regarding TDC's stance of making my citizen mother and disabled partner homeless on the basis that a leaking flat roof should have been replaced with similar, rather than the pitched one that an officer ok'd at the time.

    The farmer and one of his tenants who have always opposed their planning applications purportedly held a meeting of residents of their road but in the neighbouring village of Minster, claiming to be terrorised by my mother and disabled partner? His hand written letter purports to have been attended by councillors (therefore giving the impression the meeting was endorsed by them), but all the names were redacted on the advice of Harvey Patterson and then placed on public file whilst their planning applications were being considered, eventually leading to rejections - and despite medical advice they should stay put?

    Furthermore, there have been several examples of planning permissions having been granted in recent years in Manston going against local policy, even though the applicants have not needed the developments as their main home - and quite sizeable some of these have been too?!

    I guess what I am trying to say is, like Joe we expect a struggle to get the information, but once obtained, is it possible to discuss what is discovered through your site as you have done with Joe's? I know you could argue rubbish affects everyone in Ramsgate, but equally a lot of us have relatives scattered over the isle?

    I have now had to get involved with the KCC Kent Health & Wellbeing Board consultation where they are trying to bring about "parity of esteem" between physical and mental health services. It really should not have to be this difficult?

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    1. Solo Gays, if I might give a little advice, authorities are under no obligation from the FOI Act 2000 to give out information about individuals. If you have a problem with an TDC and your mother, the proper recourse is via the council's complaints procedure and if that fails the Local Government Ombudsman. From what you've said above, I do not think you are going to get a response to your FOI with any information.

      The farmer issue is probably also something you should complain to the council about and an FOI response is never going to resolve an issue about whether something is against council policy.

      The Freedom of Information Act 2000 is simply to get information about public services (general) rather than incidents of public services (specific to you and your mother). And the information which a council releases to a FOI request is deemed to be done in public, so you might want to think about whether you would want information about your mother (for example) in the public domain.

      Unfortunately these things are very specifically regulated and controlled. To get any sensible response to an FOI you have to word your request in a very specific way, you have to know what you can (and cannot) ask for and you have to know who to ask. Sometimes you even have to tell the FOI officer where to look to find the information.

      In my opinion, none of what you've described above is FOI-able.

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    2. Thankyou Joe. A range of questions have been asked, including listing permissions that have gone against policy, so will just have to see what comes back?

      The complaints procedure and ombudsman route has been used before unsatisfactorily. We had a situation that the same Councillors that were involved in the planning decisions going against them, were also on the Standards Board, and being advised all the while by Harvey Patterson. Cllr Mick Tomlinson's seems to be everywhere in this regard, and both he and other Councillors know my mother's partner and yet took part in the vote to evict him in 2009. We now know what happens to Independent Standards Board members when they speak out!

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    3. Mick Tee is a great guy who genuinely loves and cares about the area! Wish there were more like him at TDC.

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    4. It is the unseen or un-noticed acts that I am interested in Peter be they good or bad

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  9. seems that some folk seem to need to get a life!!! rather than be navel gazing pedants

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  10. I had a one night stand with one of those street cleaners made redundant a few years back as he was seeking some solace. I recall he had a nice navel...

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    1. Hope he cleaned himself up first...

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    2. It was a respectful encounter

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  11. Spending some money on education might help. The people who drop the litter must take ultimate blame, not the council.
    Mind you, the fact that huge numbers of litter bins have been removed in some places does not help.
    St Georges Green in Cliftonville is a good example. People regularly picnic there and most take their litter home but there are no bins.
    A side issue: the public toilet there seems to have been appropriated by Thanet Bowls as a Pool room. Not an appropriate commandeering of a public facility surely. The green has become an open toilet. Another reason Walpole bay does not get a Blue Flag.

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