Friday 28 June 2013

Does This Make You Cross?

I do like a nice pen and I was lucky to be given a very nice Cross Pen for Christmas last year. At Barnet Council they also like Cross Pens. I don't know how many they ordered - because that is commercially sensitive (WHY?) but I do know they spent £2,304 (inc VAT) on them last year. As I understand it they were given out to staff as part of the London Borough of Barnet Value Awards scheme. Now it may be that these pens have been cherished by staff and if that is the case then fantastic but they appear to retail, when engraved, at around £30 a pop. Maybe the Council got a good deal and got 100 of the pens but maybe there are more effective ways to engage and motivate staff than giving them an engraved pen - like treating them fairly and not making them redundant. Any staff who received a pen and would like to give their views I would be more than happy to publish them.


  1. At the appropriate time, you can serve notice on the council under s.15 Audit Commission Act 1998 and request a copy of the invoice. That will tell you how many they purchased.

    Personally, I think engraved pens are nice and relatively inexpensive way to reward staff who have performed well. I suspect the only reason the council don’t want to tell you how many pens they bought for £2,300 is because it would expose just how useless the procurement department is.

    1. DCMD I have requested and had a copy of the invoice on precisely that basis, notified a week in advance. However the unit price and numbers have been redacted. In fact of the 117 invoices I requested just about every one had the number and unit price redacted. From how many people a catering event was for to how many senior officers received executive coaching. Even using the rights conferred un Audit Commission Act, Barnet say I am not entitled to know details on an invoice that my be commercially sensitive.

  2. It’s about time this ‘commercially sensitive’ argument was laid to rest. Barnet is not a business. It is a public authority. Everything it does is in the name of its residents. As far as I am aware, the council is only entitled to redact personal details in response to a s.15 request. Another one for the auditor, methinks.

    Or resubmit the request under F.O.I and let’s see what the Information Commissioner has to say about it.

  3. Yes: DCMD is absolutely right, Mr R: we are entitled to this information, and the ICO is far more likely to support our rights in law than any audit process, especially at the moment when LBB is being monitored for being so obstructive in regard to the FOIA.