WIRRAL COUNCIL goes to the dentist: a short play about FOI and local government
The below is written in memory of my late Great-Uncle Joe who before he retired taught dentistry. I am currently writing an e-book about freedom of information of which the below is an excerpt.
ICO Information Commissioner’s Office logo
WIRRAL COUNCIL, a "most improved" Council is in the dentists’ chair looking worried.
Hovering above the patient in the dentists’ chair is MR BRACE, the dentist. Every tooth of WIRRAL COUNCIL he has taken out before is displayed proudly in a cabinet in the waiting area and visitors leave comments about them.
WIRRAL COUNCIL (mumbling and looking worried): You want to take my teeth out, again!? So the public can look at my teeth!?
MR BRACE: Only some of them, don’t worry you’ll grow new ones! Or I could take X-rays of them instead?
WIRRAL COUNCIL (mumbling): I’ll have to think about this and get back to you in twenty working days.
Twenty working days pass. Nothing happens. MR BRACE phones WIRRAL COUNCIL.
MR BRACE: You said you’d get back to me!
WIRRAL COUNCIL (alarmed): Sorry, it will all cost too much and end up taking over 18 and a half hours of my time! (slams the phone down)
MR BRACE rings WIRRAL COUNCIL again.
WIRRAL COUNCIL (even more alarmed): Sorry now you’re just being… vexatious! (slams the phone down again)
MR BRACE rings ICO and tells them what happened.
A year later WIRRAL COUNCIL rings the dentist.
WIRRAL COUNCIL: Sorry I’ve changed my mind you’re not being vexatious, but it’ll still cost too much!
ICO after a year of scratching their head tell WIRRAL COUNCIL it won’t cost too much.
WIRRAL COUNCIL takes some of its teeth out (reluctantly) and hands them to the dentist. It claims despite conducting a thorough search of its own mouth, that the teeth it thought it had, and claimed it had and had been telling everyone it used for chewing food for two years, aren’t actually there.
It tells MR BRACE and ICO that he cannot have the other teeth because they contain "personal data" and after consulting its solicitor that to hand over some teeth would be "prejudicial to the effective conduct of public affairs".
MR BRACE asks WIRRAL COUNCIL to think again. WIRRAL COUNCIL says no, so he asks ICO.
WIRRAL COUNCIL (after trying to ignore MR BRACE) tells him and ICO that MR. BRACE is being vexatious and he can have no more of its teeth.
Then WIRRAL COUNCIL changes its mind and over two years after this saga started, hands over one more of its teeth (but with bits blacked out). Eventually it removes the blacked out bits.
ICO tell WIRRAL COUNCIL it is being very naughty with MR BRACE, feels sorry for Wirral Council so it let’s it keep one tooth, but also says to stop calling MR BRACE vexatious. ICO asks WIRRAL COUNCIL to provide a fresh response.
WIRRAL COUNCIL doesn’t like this!
WIRRAL COUNCIL just refers MR BRACE and ICO to its earlier decisions.
MR BRACE contacts ICO again. However ICO conveniently lose what most of what MR BRACE told them.
ICO tell WIRRAL COUNCIL once again it is wrong, ICO tell WIRRAL COUNCIL to hand over two more of its teeth.
MR BRACE thinks the whole thing (now lasting over 3 years) is getting very silly indeed!
So he asks for a meeting, where independent people at a "Tribunal" can decide whether WIRRAL COUNCIL should have to hand over its teeth (whether blacked out or not).
WIRRAL COUNCIL hands over two more of its teeth, again with bits blacked out.
WIRRAL COUNCIL hires a barrister to plead with the Tribunal to help keep its teeth.
ICO says its not going to come to such a meeting about WIRRAL COUNCIL‘s teeth but sends a written response.
A hearing date is set (16th June 2016 starting at 10:00am at The Employment Tribunal, 3rd Floor, Civil & Family Court, 35 Vernon Street, Liverpool, L2 2BX) and the rest is yet to be decided!
But why is making a simple FOI request like pulling teeth?
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