Thursday, May 9th, 2013 at 1:57 pm - - FOI

In their new executive-summary-style webpages, the UK Government sets out its case that it is fulfilling its side of the deal that allows them to remain a nuclear weapons state under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty wherein they promised to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 at 10:31 pm - - FOI

Still hammering away at this. The Tribunal judge served the Directions, which said: “Having considered the reasoning and effect of the Supreme Court judgement I now consider these appeals now fall to be struck out on the provisions of rule 8 (3) (c) of the Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (General Regulatory Chamber) Rules 2009. This is because I have formed a provisional view that these appeals no longer have a reasonable prospect of success.” The final hearing date is 5 April 2012.

My first reply referred to all my other detailed submissions, which no one seemed to have taken the trouble to read yet. Then the other Parties (the ICO and the BBC) weighed in with their submissions “inviting the Tribunal to strike out [my] consolidated appeals.”

My reply to their submissions is below the fold:


Friday, March 9th, 2012 at 7:11 am - - FOI 6 Comments »

Unlike the United States of America, which funds its high tech innovation as a byproduct of its vast and insane military boondoggles, the European Union organizes its funding through investments, recently to the tune of €6.4 billion for smart growth and jobs.

The problem with investments is it doesn’t get the job done. You see, if the Prime Minister wanted to, say, establish a nuclear power industry in the UK, he wouldn’t give money to some venture capitalist firms to invest in nuclear power startup enterprises, because such enterprises would obviously have to expend all their resources looking for business (probably in Iran if they had to), and not doing the actual work. No, to grow the nuclear power industry, the Prime Minister would place some actual orders for nuclear power plants and related equipment, and the market would invest and provide.


Saturday, November 12th, 2011 at 12:27 pm - - FOI 1 Comment »

Just turned in my Reply to the Response concerning the personal privacy of wasting finite resources and cooking the planet through the operation of unnecessarily inefficient house insulation.


Sunday, October 9th, 2011 at 8:41 am - - FOI 3 Comments »

As part of the deal with the DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) to maintain the EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) database, Landmark Information Group Ltd was supposed to invent a brand new database of UPRNs (Unique Property Reference Numbers) for every distinct saleable property in the country. An Energy Assessors would need to look up a property on it when filing a certificate. [Click on the image to read the text in place]

This always seemed ridiculous to me. It was 2006 when these contracts were negotiated. How many government institutions in the country were already depending on an exactly equivalent database? There’s the Post office, the Ordnance Survey, the Land Registry, every local authority who is administering the property taxes, the water company, the electric company, the phone company, the BBC license fee collectors, and all parcel couriers and junk mail distributors in the land.

Why build another one?

The explanation is given in footnote 7 of page 29 of the Home Condition Report Register & Associated Services – Services Requirements Specification:

What’s remarkable is that this EPC database procurement was going on at the height of David Blunkett’s Identity Cards rampage. For years his fevered imagination was gripped by the technocratic merits of issuing unique computer processable identity number for every man, woman and child in the country to the extent that he continued to push it against rising unpopularity, mounting impracticality and rapidly inflating costs.

Did it not occur to anyone to notice that there was this related, far easier problem to tackle in the form of the government databases of places where people live? You’d think that one ministerial phone call and the threat of an order based on the PSI Directive would have sorted it out immediately. By now we could now have a totally available system for linking all house data together that would be as efficient as car license plate numbering. But we don’t.

The rest of this Services Requirements Specification document contains much else that is extraordinary. I will mine it for more blog posts in the future.

Update: I can’t keep up. Look at this Cabinet Office page on the BS7666 format.

Then there’s this document explaining to people doing data entry work in Bedforshire how to handle this new-fangled address format in their schools database.

Or you can pay £350 to get someone to teach you about it.

Friday, July 22nd, 2011 at 7:46 am - - FOI

I have been on the case of the Energy Performance Certificate database for a long time. This is a European mandated scheme for rating houses on the market so people can know if they’re buying a gas-guzzler or not.

Or, to put it another way, if you invest money into insulating your home and making it more energy efficient you should expect its value to go up, even if it looks exactly the same as all the other houses in the street (even though the changes are invisible if they are not solar panels).

I am in pursuit of the bizarre determination that the EPC database constitutes private personal information.

I am also looking at the company that has been contracted to run the database, Landmark Information Group Limited. First, I asked for the contract.


Thursday, July 21st, 2011 at 8:59 am - - FOI 1 Comment »

A complete waste of time was had one morning recently, following a Decision Notice document dump that came through the post shortly before we set off for France.

The government wants to improve the structure and development in the national high-tech economy, which it knows is dysfunctional on account of there being so many successful and utterly incompetent large businesses, while at the same time small competent businesses that should grow and displace them are not able to survive.

Hint: why not stop giving huge failing contracts to these big businesses, and break them up into a scale where it can be done by small suppliers, like it says in the manifesto?

Instead, what the government did was consult with the experts in business capital finance who are responsible for the situation, and they persuaded them to bail them out with a public subsidy on the basis of what they called the equity gap.

My interpretation of the logic is as follows:

  • Only companies above a certain size of £x millions are able to thrive — for various reasons, such as the unnecessary largeness of government contracts, the need to support a legal team probably larger than the programming team, and so forth
  • The only way a new company could expand to that critical size is through capital investment of at least £y millions, because doing business at a smaller size was not an option.
  • However, the venture capital industry is only willing to put money into companies of a certain size of at least £z millions, because they need to live off a healthy cut of the business.
  • So there is an equity gap between the value of the entrepreneur selling their own house for £0.q millions and £min(x, z) millions which creates a barrier that protects the larger companies from any effective competition.

The answer was, among a lot of other programmes, Capital for Enterprise staffed entirely by people from the finance industry. I learnt about it only when Vero Software got bailed out by a benefactor of this fund.

I read up about some of the bureaucratic arrangements in the programme and found this part of the guidance.

Hm. I wonder what these Investee Summary Sheets look like, and what they’re doing with them?

Apparently nothing. They wouldn’t give me any. And the Information Commissioner concurred that they shouldn’t give me any.

Also, the ICO confirmed on the record that There Is No Database:

The National Audit Office made a report last year, with the summary:

“These venture capital funds help small, often innovative, businesses that otherwise may have struggled. And there is evidence that some businesses have benefited from this support. But, in the absence of clear objectives and baselines from the start, coupled with poor financial performance to date of early funds, the Department’s programme cannot currently be said to demonstrate value for money. Finally, there is no information publicly available about the funds. BIS should be more transparent, without compromising confidentiality.”

It’s worth reading the report which confirms my evidence that the Department is not even internally conducting any analysis whatsoever about how all their bailed out venture capital companies are performing, in terms of extracting bloated fees, or their habit of overlooking viable businesses on the basis of their bogus financial models — hence the whole nonsense about the equity gap.

At the very least, they should be capturing enough information to prove or disprove the truth of the equity gap myth, and whether this intervention is actually filling it — if it exists.

So, the Investee Summary Sheets are filed in a box somewhere and completely ignored. And no one is allowed to see them.

What are the “Findings of Fact”:

Oh, an Information sheet — JUST FOR ME!

How exciting.

I can’t wait to see what it looks like:

Hm. That’s not very informative.

And the reason why no one is allowed to see any of these Investee Summary Sheets is…

So, to be clear, if the ECF decides in their infinite wisdom that a company who has applied for funding is not up to the job of accepting investment, this determination should be kept secret in the commercial interests of the that company in case they are able to con money out of some other investor who would otherwise be more wary of parting with their money if only they knew.

In other words, the ECF are saying that they want people to put money into companies they know are bad investments.

Either that, or they don’t want their investment decisions ever to be scrutinized. Because, as we well know, the business itself perfectly well knows what’s what; it’s all passing around the grape vine among the same crowd of people; because when an application from a company lands on your desk, you will of course ring round your colleagues to see if anyone has heard of it; and they will tell you; that’s how business gets done; and if one of your friends who is acting as an agent for that company has polished it into a professional standard application, so much the better.

Anyhow, just to draw this to a close, the logic obviously doesn’t apply to companies that we do know have applied.


Please can I be sent:

1) A copy of the Investee Summary Sheet for Vero Software plc, as disclosed in its loan agreement press release 2009-12-04.

2) A copy of the Investee Summary Sheet for Documentric, as disclosed in an article dated 2009-09-29.

3) A copy of the Investee Summary Sheet for Qire, as disclosed in a press release on 2010-06-01.

4) A copy of the Investee Summary Sheet for Monumental Games, as disclosed in a press release dated 2009-12-16.

5) The number of Investee Summary Sheets that have been received by ECF in 2009 (the year of establishment), 2010 and 2011.

6) The name of Capital for Enterprise Fund portfolio company described in Paragraph 33 of the Notice, which suffered adverse publicity resulting in a noticeable aversion by investee companies.

Sunday, May 8th, 2011 at 9:38 pm - - FOI, Whipping 1 Comment »

Cross-posted from ElectionLeaflet blog where there are some interesting angry comments. An FOI request has been made to the Electoral Commission to see if they can account for their policy.

I cannot put into words how pissed off I am with the FPTP electoral system which requires me to choose between wasting my vote on the candidate I like, or casting it for the second most disagreeable candidate on the ballot sheet knowing that it will be counted as an endorsement for every rotten policy they stand for.

For me, the Alternative Vote referendum was a brief ray of hope before it was buried under a land-fill of lies — not helped by the mind-blowing incompetence of the Yes campaign whose organizers and paymasters (who chose those organizers) should hunted down and pilloried.

I am so disappointed.

I thought to myself yesterday: “Sod this. The FPTP system offends me so much I am just going to vote as though I had an alternative vote by numbering my preferences on the ballot form.”

Then I’m going down to the overnight Count to see what the Government does with my vote.

I thought I was going to be the only fool in the country to carry out such a stupid idea.

Turns out loads of people had done it. There were ballots with numbers on them in the spoil tray for every single ward across Liverpool City. I don’t doubt it was the same everywhere else in the country.


Thursday, January 20th, 2011 at 12:41 am - - FOI 5 Comments »

Since July 2008 I have been in pursuit of the Liverpool City Council’s crappy IT outsourcing contract which has delivered several hundred million pounds of local money into a pockets of large multinational company whilst spilling barely a crumb of business to the local IT sector that certainly has the capability of providing a cheaper, home-grown, more beneficial service.

On 20 May 2009 I got first sight of a heavily redacted copy of this bloated contract.

Here, for example, is Clause 22:

(For reference, you can get this copy from someone else’s FOI request where the files aren’t zipped.)


Monday, October 18th, 2010 at 3:01 pm - - FOI 2 Comments »

I’ve looked at two disclosures today that had been sparked off by a flurry of FOI requests done following the publication of a national Crime Mapper webpage last year [blogged here].

The easy one was from the Derbyshire Constabulary who finally got round to disclosing their crime mapper contract with RockKitchenHarris, long after any of the other police forces had complied. They’d tried to refer to a completely out-of-context Tribunal Decision which suggested that Information is not the same as documents. I had to send to the ICO out of principle, and it appears they have written a stern letter to the Constabulary, and thus avoided making a decision notice.

The other one is from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), and they’ve done well.