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Message started by GrahamH on Jun 22nd, 2005 at 12:13am

Title: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by GrahamH on Jun 22nd, 2005 at 12:13am
Following  this part of a previous thread


wrote on Mar 31st, 2005 at 3:29pm:
Surrey Police also now have a totally faceless call centre on 0845 which answers the calls quickly but which everyone hates because the staff have no local area knowledge.

The reason they did it of course was because they got the call centre phone equipment and ongoing maintenance cheaper because of the subsidy from the members of the public calling them.  Nominally they don't get the money directly but as they pay less for the equipment and the phone system maintenance in practice they do get the cash.



wrote on Mar 31st, 2005 at 6:20pm:
If a journalist were able to get some gormless PC purchasing officer up for interview......

"So officer - you've saved Surrey Constabulary a one-off couple of hundred £££ on equipment - but do you realise the general public now has to pay £X thousand every year in premium rate costs as a result?"

Multiply by 300 doctors' surgeries, add in all the other state bodies, and the bill would be a big number, hopefully enough to get some big cheeses to take notice.

Trouble is we don't yet know the savings and extra cost numbers to use to make the case...



I finally received a response from Herts Constabulary (took them two months rather than 20 working days, as they claim they first had to undertake research, and then work out whether they were exempt from giving the answers!)

Using kk's handy template, I got the following: (responses shortened and paraphrased as the reply came as hard copy only)

Q. Why do you use 0845 numbers?

A. Herts police requested a single number as part of creating a call centre, and we wanted it to be easily memorable
 
Q. What is the equivalent geographical number?  

A. 01707 354 000

(obviously far more difficult to remember than 0845 3300 222 ..??)

Q. What revenue do you receive per minute and in total from the use of 0845 numbers?  

A. Can't tell you - commercially confidential

Q. Are you aware of the revenue collected by your telecom provider, from your callers?

A. Can't tell you - commercially confidential

Q. What would have been the cost of any free equipment  or maintenance you obtained by agreeing to use your telecom provider's 0845 number

A. No free equipment or maintenance was obtained or required

Q. Have you considered the revised COI guidelines?  

A. Yes

Q. If so, what conclusions did you come to?  

A. That they provided helpful advice

Q. Do you realise that all calls (local/national) cost the same?  

A. Yes

Q. Do you realise that 0845 numbers now offer no cost advantage to callers, irrespective or their location, only disadvantages?  

(And this is hilarious, especially straight after the previous answer...)
A. 0845 numbers offer advantages to to callers who are NOT dialling a local number. But one can still use the geographical number, and most people who call are local.

Q. Are you aware of the cost implications to your callers, when using 0845 numbers?  

A. Callers are free to use the 0845 number or other published numbers, and the costs may depend on oon their telecom provider and package used.

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by idb on Jun 22nd, 2005 at 12:31am
As it has not answered some of your questions, citing commercial confidentiality or some other BS, you should now ask for an internal review. There is no need to withhold such information and other government agencies are providing these data. If it still fails to provide the info, then appeal to the IC. Irrespective of whether it gives you the info you want, it costs these organizations a fortune to respond to FOI requests from the public. The more they have to pay, the more is eroded from their fat profits from NGNs. They need to understand that using these numbers has consequences, one of which is that the public, who they are supposed to serve, has a right to know certain details! Good luck.

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by GrahamH on Jun 22nd, 2005 at 1:08am
So unfortunately we're no nearer finding out the kickbacks received, and therefore still unable to give public bodies the cost benefit analysis they seem unable to do for themselves, which I am convinced would be the real "case against" this scam

However, I am dying to find out Herts police response to this one: "Thank you for your letter dated DD/MM/YYYY. I am puzzled by these responses:


Quote:
Q7. Do you realise that all calls (local/national) cost the same?  

A. Yes

Q8. Do you realise that 0845 numbers now offer no cost advantage to callers, irrespective or their location, only disadvantages?  

A. 0845 numbers offer advantages to to callers who are NOT dialling a local number. But one can still use the geographical number, and most people who call are local.


as you point out in your reply to Q7, all calls cost the same regardless of distance, so, for 15 minutes, I would pay:

EVENINGS / WEEKENDS
Herts:                              0845: 15p, 01707: nothing.
Penzance:  0845: 15p, 01707: nothing
DAYTIME
Herts:                 0845: 45p, 01707: 45p.
Penzance: 0845: 45p, 01707: 45p

ie: it costs me MORE to use the 0845 number evenings or weekends, from anywhere.  (on my bog standard BT Package)

And in daytime, even if I call you from Penzance, the saving if I use 0845 is precisely NOTHING.

Please now explain the
Quote:
"advantages to callers who are NOT dialling a local number"
such as me calling from Penzance


Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by GrahamH on Jun 22nd, 2005 at 1:10am
Thanks idb

I was still writing my 2nd bit when you posted your reply, so our messages crossed. Will add your comments into my letter

Graham

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by Dave on Jun 22nd, 2005 at 1:19am

Quote:
Q. Have you considered the revised COI guidelines?

A. Yes

Q. If so, what conclusions did you come to?

A. That they provided helpful advice

That's it?! No other conclusions? LOL ::)


Quote:
Q. Are you aware of the cost implications to your callers, when using 0845 numbers?

A. Callers are free to use the 0845 number or other published numbers, and the costs may depend on oon their telecom provider and package used.

This doesn't answer the question. It just shrugs off the issues and passes the book to telecom providers.

Alot of those questions require a yes/no answer. The above question is clearly worded "Are you aware of...?" and not "What are...?" It's to be hoped that they have a better command and understanding of the English language when upholding the law.

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by idb on Jun 22nd, 2005 at 1:25am
I will be making my own FOI request to Herts tomorrow. Even though I live 4500 miles away, I am a British citizen that has a right and possibly a need to contact police forces. One example - for US immigrant visas, and probably for some other countries, people need to obtain police certificates, as I did, before establishing permanent residence. Now if people are resident overseas only on tourist or temporary visas and need to contact the police force to obtain such certificates (as I had to), 0845 numbers are often not terminated from abroad. If these idiotic departments are shifting to discriminatory numbering systems, then I have no hesitation in submitting FOI requests that will probably cost them at least a hundred pounds to process and hopefully much more. Clueless government in the UK has to stop.

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by mc661 on Jun 22nd, 2005 at 2:20pm
I think I will also submit my slightly amdended 3 page long FOI request as well.
But my questions are worded slightly differently so they cant drumb up a standard response to them all.

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by GrahamH on Jun 23rd, 2005 at 1:53am
idb, mc661, Thanks for your support.

The email address for Herts Constabulary FOI requests is foi@herts.pnn.police.uk

Dave, good point about the lack of an answer to that question, I have incorporated a re-request into my follow up.

Hope it won't take them two months this time round...!

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by GrahamH on Jul 9th, 2005 at 4:28pm
Obviously this week's work by you guys on the London Emergency number may help add weight to this one too.

Letter received saying my request for an internal review will go before the Herts Constabulary FOI Panel on September 27th.

It says the Freedom of Information Officer will prepare a report which will be presented to the panel, but that he will also present my case and put forward any points I wish to make.

So, is this the usual public service stitch up where one department justifies its previous actions to the panel and then explains, on my behalf, why I have no just cause to get the information?

Or is there a process for getting myself along to the "hearing" ? Has anyone any experience of working with these FOI officers? There's no further detail about process in the letter.

It reminds me of the doctors' disciplinary boards and previous inter-constabulary investigations where they all protect their own...!

The letter said a copy was to be emailed to me, but that's obviously too high tec for them!

Still, it's costing them money and time - latest letter signed by the FOI officer himself, rather than the deputy who did it last time, so I've moved up the food chain slightly!

Graham

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by mc661 on Jul 20th, 2005 at 2:09am
oh dear, herts have failed the 20 business working days to respond to my request, whooopsie. looks like im gonna have to do a section 50.

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by mc661 on Jul 28th, 2005 at 5:24pm
Just had the message which is still late under the 20 days rule.

Amazing how I get a response once I start a complaint with the Information Comissioner. I will still proceed with the complaint under section 50 of the act.

Oh and I sent the complaint on headed letterhead from the local council as im a local councillor.


-----Original Message-----
From: Susannah.JOHNSON@herts.pnn.police.uk [mailto:Susannah.JOHNSON@herts.pnn.police.uk]
Sent: 28 July 2005 14:04
To: me [censored]
Cc: Tanya.DRAKE@herts.pnn.police.uk
Subject: Your request for information: Our ref: FOI00219
Importance: High

Dear Mr ,

Thank you for your request for information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) dated 22nd June concerning 0870, 0845 and 0844 numbers.  This request was logged as received by Hertfordshire Constabulary's Information Compliance Office on 23rd June 2005 in accordance with the ACPO National FOI guidance on processing FOI requests.  The deadline for Hertfordshire Constabulary to respond to your request in accordance with legislative 20 working days requirement was 21st July 2005.  

I understand that a message was left by you with my colleague to enquire as to why you have not received a response.  I apologise for the delay and for not updating you with the status of your request.  The officer who was dealing with your request has been out of the office recently due to personal reasons.  There has been an administrative error in that your request was not passed to me to deal with in the officer's absence.

I am currently preparing a response to your request and estimate that this will be sent to you no later than 5th August 2005.

Yours sincerely

Suzy Johnson
Deputy Freedom of Information Officer
Information Compliance Office
Hertfordshire Constabulary
Tel:  01707 63 8504
Fax:  01707 35 46 69

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by mc661 on Aug 3rd, 2005 at 6:57pm
Information Compliance Office
Police Headquarters
Stanborough Road
Welwyn Garden City
Hertfordshire AL8 6XF

Tel: 01707 354 659

3rd August 2005
Dear Councillor

Reference No: FOI00219

I write in connection with your request for information dated 22nd June 2005 concerning questions on 0870, 0845 and 0844 numbers and whether Hertfordshire Constabulary currently uses these numbers. This request was logged as received by the Hertfordshire Constabulary Information Compliance on 23rd June 2005. The deadline for Hertfordshire Constabulary to respond your request was 21st July 2005.

I sincerely apologise for the delay in responding to you and not being within the 20 working day time limit under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act. I understand from your email of 28th July 2005 that you would like an internal appeal/review of your question prior to you then taking your concerns to the Information Commissioner. I replied to this email on 29th July 2005 attaching our internal appeals process. I also stated that a response to your request would be provided by 5th August 2005. A letter advising you of the next appeal session is also enclosed for your information.

In your request you asked the following questions and a response has been given underneath each question posed:

1. Do you use 0870 telephone numbers?
Hertfordshire Constabulary does not use 0870 numbers.
<snip>

2. Why do you use 0845 numbers?
This is a single use number for contact purposes to allow the public an easy to remember number should they wish to use it. The Hertfordshire Police Authority had requested a single contact number as part of the creation of a centralised call centre. A 01707 number is still published for those callers that wish to use it as an alternative contact telephone number.

2.1 And if so, what are the equivalent geographical numbers?
The equivalent geographical number is 01707 35 40 00.

2.2 What revenue do you receive per minute and in total from the use of 0845 numbers?
It is not possible to disclose this information as it is commercial in confidence. The exemptions used and public interest test applied in respect of this is question are detailed below.

2.3 Are you aware of the revenue collected by your telecom provider, from your callers?
It is not possible to disclose this information as it is commercial in confidence. The exemptions used and public interest test applied in respect of this is question are detailed below.

2.4 Have you considered the revised COI guidelines?
The revised COI guidelines were considered.

2.4.1 If so, what conclusions did you come to?
The guidelines provided some helpful advice however The Home Office also produced a document called Open All Hours which required police forces to be more open and accessible to members of the public and this document was also taken into consideration. The Call Handling section 7.3 on page 134 of this document states that forces must improve their response to non-emergency calls. Page 137 also discusses the use of a single non-emergency telephone number.
The web address for this document is:
http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/hmic/openallhours.pdf

2.5 Do you realise that all calls (local/national) cost the same regardless if calling from Penzance or Hatfield?
Hertfordshire Constabulary does realise that all calls to the 0845 number both local and national cost the same.

2.6 Do you realise that 0845 numbers now offer no cost advantage to callers, irrespective of their location, only disadvantages?
0845 numbers have advantages to callers who are not dialling a local number.
For some callers it could be argued that there are slight differences due to small differences in call cost should callers choose to use the 0845 number instead of the published local number. We feel that offering an easy to remember 0845 number is more beneficial to the community. All callers are still free to use the 01707 354000 published number should they wish to. The majority of our callers are local people.

2.7 Are you aware of the cost implications to your callers, when using 0845 numbers?
Hertfordshire Constabulary are aware that for some callers the cost may be marginally higher however the local published number is still available to them should they choose to use it instead of the 0845 number.

2.8 How much does it cost to call an 0845 number…
2.8.1 In the Daytime
It costs 3.36 pence per minute during the daytime.

2.8.2 In the Evening
It costs 1.26 pence per minute in the evening.

2.8.3 At weekends
It costs 0.85 pence per minute at weekends.

3. Why do you use 0844 numbers?
Hertfordshire Constabulary does not use 0870 numbers.
<snip>

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by mc661 on Aug 3rd, 2005 at 6:58pm

In relation to the withheld information in questions 2.2 and 2.3, the following Freedom of Information Act 2000 exemptions are applicable: S.41 (a) – Information
Provided in Confidence and S.43, Commercial Interests.

These exemptions apply because:
• Information contained within contracts/service agreements and related documentation between suppliers/providers and Hertfordshire Constabulary is confidential.
Some of the exemptions above are also subject to a public interest test. This test has been applied and is detailed below.

Favouring Disclosure:
Accountability
Correct use of public funds and resources are of significant interest to the community as it relates to the efficiency and effectiveness of the force.

Favouring Non Disclosure:
Exemption Provisions
Where one of more of the exemption provisions applies and gives rise to a public interest consideration favouring non-disclosure.

Interests of Third Parties
Where third party interests may be jeopardises by release of information that relates to personal affairs of individuals and/or sensitive commercial information held about business, financial, contractual or operating issues.

On balance, it is considered that the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosing it.

I am sorry that Hertfordshire Constabulary could not provide all of the information you requested in this instance. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require further assistance.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your interest in HertfordshireConstabulary.

Yours sincerely
Suzy Johnson
Deputy Freedom of Information Officer
Information Compliance Office
-------

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by mc661 on Aug 3rd, 2005 at 7:00pm
Dear Councillor,

Reference: Formal Appeal against Hertfordshire Constabulary Freedom of Information Response:

Thank you for your email dated 28th July 2005 in which you have asked for your request for information dated 22nd June 2005 regarding the use of 0870, 0845 and 0844 numbers together with our response to this request, be placed before the next internal appeals panel.

I can confirm your request for a review will be placed before the Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Freedom of Information Appeal Panel on 27th September 2005.

A further copy of our appeals process has been provided for your information.

Yours sincerely
Suzy Johnson
Deputy Freedom of Information Officer
Information Compliance Office

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by GrahamH on Aug 15th, 2005 at 1:54pm
They failed the 20 day service level on my follow up questions too (Sent June 23rd, still no reply!), plus promised me copies of letters by email and the return of a phone call, both of which haven't happened.

Obviously the FOI department is a bit of a shambles. How do I do a "Section 50?"

Still, both mc661's and my requests will be going before the same internal appeals panel, which should help things along

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by Heinz on Aug 15th, 2005 at 3:21pm

wrote on Aug 15th, 2005 at 1:54pm:
They failed the 20 day service level on my follow up questions too (Sent June 23rd, still no reply!), plus promised me copies of letters by email and the return of a phone call, both of which haven't happened.

I may be wrong but don't such administrative falures fall into the 'complaints against police' catagory and need to be the subject of separate complaints (i.e. outwith the FOI procedures).

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by idb on Aug 17th, 2005 at 12:03am
My own timeline with Herts:

June 22 FOI request sent by email
July 20 Reminder sent to Herts police
July 22 Complaint sent to Information Commissioner
Aug 1 Acknowledgement from IC (we're busy but we're working on it etc)

So almost two months from the FOI request, a complete silence from Herts police.

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by mc661 on Aug 17th, 2005 at 2:19pm
An update.

IC have just written to me to say I have to wait till herts constab  internal review proceedure has been completed before I can do a section 50 complaint.

50. - (1) Any person (in this section referred to as "the complainant") may apply to the Commissioner for a decision whether, in any specified respect, a request for information made by the complainant to a public authority has been dealt with in accordance with the requirements of Part I.

     (2) On receiving an application under this section, the Commissioner shall make a decision unless it appears to him-

 

     (a) that the complainant has not exhausted any complaints procedure which is provided by the public authority in conformity with the code of practice under section 45,

 

     (b) that there has been undue delay in making the application,

 

     (c) that the application is frivolous or vexatious, or

 

     (d) that the application has been withdrawn or abandoned.

     (3) Where the Commissioner has received an application under this section, he shall either-

 

     (a) notify the complainant that he has not made any decision under this section as a result of the application and of his grounds for not doing so, or

 

     (b) serve notice of his decision (in this Act referred to as a "decision notice") on the complainant and the public authority.

     (4) Where the Commissioner decides that a public authority-

 

     (a) has failed to communicate information, or to provide confirmation or denial, in a case where it is required to do so by section 1(1), or

 

     (b) has failed to comply with any of the requirements of sections 11 and 17,

 the decision notice must specify the steps which must be taken by the authority for complying with that requirement and the period within which they must be taken.

     (5) A decision notice must contain particulars of the right of appeal conferred by section 57.

     (6) Where a decision notice requires steps to be taken by the public authority within a specified period, the time specified in the notice must not expire before the end of the period within which an appeal can be brought against the notice and, if such an appeal is brought, no step which is affected by the appeal need be taken pending the determination or withdrawal of the appeal.

     (7) This section has effect subject to section 53.

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by GrahamH on Aug 18th, 2005 at 12:21am
Thanks mc661

Guess I'll have to be patient ??? and wait for the outcome of my internal review/appeal for now

thanks also for posting
Quote:
mailto:Susannah.JOHNSON@herts.pnn.police.uk
below - now saved me a bit of time dealing with these bureaucrats - I'd tried every variation of her name except that one!


wrote on Aug 15th, 2005 at 3:21pm:
I may be wrong but don't such administrative falures fall into the 'complaints against police' catagory and need to be the subject of separate complaints (i.e. outwith the FOI procedures).

Fair point, apart from, in my opinion, the follow up questions. However, because they view these merely as a reply to their reply, Herts police believe the 20-day rule doesn't apply to them either.

Lesson for me for next time: More questions => complete new FOI request.

And, despite using every excuse in the book to avoid being helpful or doing a good job, public sector workers still can't understand why the rest of us think they're totally unemployable in the real world...

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by mc661 on Sep 5th, 2005 at 3:25pm
I just spoke the FOI officer himself with regards to the status of my FOI request and he said that it was going to the Internal Reviews panel at the end of the month.

I asked him why the 20 days timescale didnt apply to them and he said that I would have to make a complaint to the police force. I asked how I would go about it and he said to call an 0845 number!!!!

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by bbb_uk on Sep 5th, 2005 at 3:51pm

wrote on Sep 5th, 2005 at 3:25pm:
...I asked him why the 20 days timescale didnt apply to them and he said that I would have to make a complaint to the police force. I asked how I would go about it and he said to call an 0845 number!!!!
Typical and expected.

Their contact us page for FOI requests gives a geo of 01707 638504.

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by GrahamH on Oct 6th, 2005 at 3:11am
Letter received today, dated Oct 4, following the internal review:
+++++++++++
Hertfordshire Constabulary's Freedom of Information Review panel met on Sept 27th to review your request for appeal.

The review panel considered your appeal and up held that further information in respect of questions 4, 10, 11 and 12 is to be released under the Freedom of Information Act 2005 (sic). A response shall be forwarded to you within 20 working days and will be with you no later than 25th October 2005.
++++++++

So some progress at least, but I think I'll manage to contain myself until I see the quality of the "further information."

Sarcastic sods franked the envelope with an advert for their 0845 number, so obviously no road to Damascus conversion just yet!

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by mc661 on Oct 6th, 2005 at 9:14am
your lucky, I havent even had a response to their internal review yet.

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by mc661 on Oct 12th, 2005 at 6:15pm
This is the response to my internal review request.

APPARENTLY it was sent to me by royal mail on the 29th, amazingly I never recived it. Proof of posting is not proof of receipt,

BY EMAIL 12 OCT 05
On Tuesday 27th September Hertfordshire Constabulary's Freedom of Information Review Panel met to consider your appeal dated 28thJuly 2005 in respect for not meeting the 20 working day deadline under S 10 - Time for compliance with request.
The Review Panel noted that there was a delay in responding to your request for information and this was due to ensuring that the information provided to you would be accurate.
However, the Information Compliance Office should have written to you to inform you of the delay and expected date of when you would receive the information requested. The Information Compliance Office have now reviewed and revised its procedures and will be notifying requestors if there is to be a delay in responding to the request and when they can expect to receive the information requested.
If you feel that Hertfordshire Constabulary have failed to meet your rights under The Freedom of Information Act 2000 then under Section 50 - Application for decision by
Commissioner, you are entitled to contact the Information Commissioners Office as to whether or not Hertfordshire Constabulary acted in accordance with the Act.

The Information Commissioner can refuse an application to review a decision on the grounds of "undue delay in making an application". It is therefore in your best interest, if you wish to make an application to the Information Commissioner to do so as soon as possible
from receiving this final response from Hertfordshire constabulary.
-------

Well they havent commented about why they exempted 2.2 and 2.3 of my original request (listed above). This is what I thought the internal review was supposed to do? I suspect this was yet another cock-up, which they are trying to brush under the carpet.


Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by GrahamH on Oct 17th, 2005 at 11:19pm
Received the "Further information" now so here's the complete reply. For continuity, basis for appeal in bold, their new replies shown as quotes:

1. Why do you use 0845 numbers?

A. Herts police requested a single number as part of creating a call centre, and we wanted it to be easily memorable
 
2. What is the equivalent geographical number?  

A. 01707 354 000

3. What revenue do you receive per minute and in total from the use of 0845 numbers?  

A. Can't tell you - commercially confidential

4. Are you aware of the revenue collected by your telecom provider, from your callers?

A. Can't tell you - commercially confidential

Other public bodies, including the Department for Education and Skills (DFES), Criminal Records Bureau and the BBC, have now provided exactly this information in response to similar queries. Consequently, please re-examine this non-disclosure under your review procedure, and provide me with the information requested

Question 3 revised answer;
Quote:
Hertfordshire Constabulary receive a small percentage of the call cost which assists in funding additional lines rented to support the 0845 service route. Unfortunately we are unable to provide any further information on the amount of revenue received as this is considered commercial in confidence with our supplier.


Question 4 revised answer
Quote:
It was agreed by the review panel that the response provided to you was correct and that your request for additional information was not up held.


5. What would have been the cost of any free equipment  or maintenance you obtained by agreeing to use your telecom provider's 0845 number

A. No free equipment or maintenance was obtained or required

6. Have you considered the revised COI guidelines?  

A. Yes

7. If so, what conclusions did you come to?  

A. That they provided helpful advice

8. Do you realise that all calls (local/national) cost the same?  

A. Yes

9. Do you realise that 0845 numbers now offer no cost advantage to callers, irrespective or their location, only disadvantages?  

A. 0845 numbers offer advantages to to callers who are NOT dialling a local number. But one can still use the geographical number, and most people who call are local.

As you correctly state in your reply to question 8, all calls cost the same regardless of distance, so, for 30 minutes, I would pay:

EVENINGS / WEEKENDS
From Herts:     0845: 30p, 01707: 5.5p.  
From Penzance:  0845: 30p, 01707: 5.5p

DAYTIME  
From Herts:       0845: 90p, 01707: 90p.  
From Penzance: 0845: 90p, 01707: 90p

ie: it costs me MORE to use the 0845 number evenings or weekends, from either Herts or Penzance. (on an absolutely standard BT Together Option 1 Package)

And in daytime, even if I call you from Penzance, the saving if I use 0845 is precisely NOTHING.

In the light of this, please would you now explain the circumstances in which your reply to question 9 is factually correct (that "0845 numbers have advantages to callers who are not dialling a local number"), as I believe there are none.


Question 8 & 9 revised answer.
Quote:
The panel considered these two requests in tangent with one another and agreed that the following information be provided to you.

Hertfordshire Constabulary are aware that local and national calls to an 0845 number are charged the same rate. Therefore it could be argued that for some callers there is a slight disadvantage due to small differences in cost if they should choose to use our 0845 number instead of other published local numbers. However Hertfordshire Constabulary feel by publishing an easy to remember 0845 number this is more beneficial to the community it serves. All callers are still free to use the 01707 354000 published number should they wish to do so. The majority of our callers are local people.

10. Are you aware of the cost implications to your callers, when using 0845 numbers?  

A. Callers are free to use the 0845 number or other published numbers, and the costs may depend on their telecom provider and package used.

Please give details of your analysis of the public's cost incurred calling your 0845 number versus your 01707 number, and the benefits received by Hertfordshire Constabulary by opting for the 0845 number rather than 01707.

Question 10 revised answer:
Quote:
Hertfordshire Constabulary handles calls in the main for local residents. Therefore we see no difference in call charges should they use our 0845 or 01707 numbers.
We are aware that a very small minority may have use of special discount packages but obviously these people still have a choice of numbers to use and are therefore not disadvantaged.

In respect of benefits received Hertfordshire Constabulary are able to route 0845 traffic to any location of its choice in the event of a central site failure and Hertfordshire Police Authority see the use of an easy to remember 0845 number advantageous.

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by GrahamH on Oct 17th, 2005 at 11:22pm
The question numbering got a little confused as I misnumbered one of my queries - don't read anything into the discrepancy between my post further up this page and the question numbers in the last one.

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by GrahamH on Oct 17th, 2005 at 11:45pm
I shall pause a while and consider how to phrase everything before taking it further.

However, what jumps out at me are:

1. they're wriggling round every little tight definition they can find - "free equipment and or maintenance" instead of "services" in terms of line rental

2. they go on about the fact that we're free to call the 01707 number, but they refuse to promote it

3. they claim only a very small minority are on inclusive packages - does anyone know the figure for how many residential lines are on BT together?

4. they "see no difference" between 30p for 30 mins on 0845 and 5.5p on 01707 in evenings / on weekends from Herts

If I'm being charitable I suppose it's all a bit beyond their mental capacity.   ::)  If I'm talking to the Information Commissioner it feels like deliberate obstructiveness...

Obviously I welcome all your thoughts on how best to attack this one.

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by Dave on Oct 18th, 2005 at 12:06am
Re: Question 8 & 9 revised answer:

Quote:
Quote:
The panel considered these two requests in tangent with one another and agreed that the following information be provided to you.

Don't understand that bit? Why would they think that? ???

The response continues:

Quote:
Hertfordshire Constabulary are aware that local and national calls to an 0845 number are charged the same rate.....

But a non-geographical number is by definition, non-geographical, so how can you be a national distance away from a number which isn't tied to a geographical location?? ::)

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by Dave on Oct 18th, 2005 at 12:49am
It does appear that some government bodies treat questions about non-geographical numbers with quite a degree of flipancy. For example, take GrahamH's question 7:

Quote:
6. Have you considered the revised COI guidelines?  

A. Yes

7. If so, what conclusions did you come to?    

A. That they provided helpful advice

However, what if you look on this as the literal view? I'm sure that the COI guidelines do provide "helpful advice."

Similarly, the issue that these government organisations seem to think that the local/national call rates still apply is some pre-competition definition. They won't take off their blinkers and 'see' the current market position. From what I can remember of the responses, some admit that 'discounted' packages are available for consumer to 'choose', but that's as far as it goes.

So where should the blame lie for these outdated views of the telecoms world? I think that it should lie at the door of the COI and Ofcom.

From what I understand of the COI, it is there to inform, hence the I in COI! So how about informing government bodies about what's happening in the telecoms world?

I appreciate that it would be wrong for it to promote any one provider above another, but a general overview that most providers charge the same for local calls as national calls would be a step in the right direction.

Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by idb on Mar 21st, 2006 at 9:41pm
Below is my response from the IC which upholds the 'vexatious request' argument. I am seeking advice from those with specialist knowledge about how to pursue this. Thanks.

<<
I have now concluded my investigation into the way Hertfordshire Constabulary (the Constabulary) handled your request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act).

You alleged that the Constabulary failed to respond to your request for information within the twenty working day time limit, as required by section 10 of the Act.  Your initial request was made on 22nd June 2005 and yet you did not receive a response until 12th October 2005.  The Constabulary has advised me that its systems have been searched there is no record of your emails dated 22nd June and 20th July 2005.  However you have provided these emails in support of your complaint and I am therefore satisfied that the Constabulary breached section 10 in this respect.  I have asked the Constabulary to ensure there is no reason why emails sent to the foi@herts.pnn.police.uk email account should not be received, to assist those wishing to make FOI requests in the future.    

You complained about the Constabulary’s refusal to provide you with information in response to your FOI request on the grounds section 14 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) applied; namely that the request was vexatious.  I am satisfied that the Constabulary correctly applied section 14 in this case.  I will outline the reasons for this below.

The Constabulary initially refused to provide information on the grounds your request was repeated / vexatious.  I asked for clarification on exactly which of these provisions was relied upon, and the Constabulary confirmed that your request had been considered vexatious and not repeated.

Public authorities are not required to provide information in response to FOI requests where the request can be considered vexatious.  There is no definition of ‘vexatious’ within the Act, however the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has produced guidance to assist in the interpretation of this section.  It is available at the following link:

http://www.ico.gov.uk/documentUploads/AG 22 Vexatious Paper - Final.pdf

As you will see from this paper, the use of the vexatious provision is likely to be upheld by the ICO if the request:

·      does not have any serious purpose or value;
·      is designed to cause disruption or annoyance;
·      has the effect of harassing the authority;
·      can otherwise be characterised as obsessive or manifestly unreasonable.

It will generally be possible to identify a request as vexatious if:

·      the applicant explicitly makes clear it is his intention to cause a public authority inconvenience by making a request;
·      the authority has independent knowledge of the intention of the applicant to cause inconvenience by making a request.

I asked the Constabulary to justify its use of the vexatious provision.  The Constabulary provided printouts from messages posted on a website called ‘SayNoto0870.com’, which it alleges were posted by you.  Extracts from the message boards are as follows:

·      On 21st June 2005: “Irrespective of whether it gives you the info you want, it costs these organisations a fortune to respond to FOI requests from the public”;
·      On 22nd June 2005: “If these idiotic departments are shifting to discriminatory numbering systems, then I have no hesitation in submitting FOI requests that will probably cost them at least a hundred pounds to process and hopefully much more”;
·      On 12th October 2005: “I’m actually pleased that they have issued a refusal notice”; and “My appeal is ready to go, I’m just seeing who I can copy this into for maximum effect”.

I asked the Constabulary to substantiate why it believed these messages were posted by you.  The following was provided as justification:

·      The correspondence from the Constabulary has always been extremely applicant specific and has appeared immediately on the ‘Say No to 0870’ website;
·      The username of the person posting the messages is ‘idb’ and all correspondence to the Constabulary has been under the name of [me]’;
·      The messages state that ‘idb’ is writing from Miami;
·      You have stated your intention to “make all FOI requests available in the public domain”.

I am therefore satisfied that the messages posted on the ‘Say No to 0870’ website demonstrate the request made to the Constabulary was vexatious.  I am also satisfied that the Constabulary has provided sufficient evidence that the messages were posted by you.

Section 50 of the Act obliges the Commissioner to issue a Decision Notice unless the person making the complaint is prepared to withdraw it.  I would therefore invite you to withdraw your complaint, as any Decision Notice issued will find in favour of the Constabulary on the section 14 issue.  The Commissioner will not issue a decision simply in respect of the section 10 issue in this case, as to do so would serve no useful purpose.

If you disagree with my decision and wish to have the opportunity to appeal to the Information Tribunal please let me know and I shall draft a Decision Notice which reflects the arguments advanced above.

I look forward to hearing from you.
>>


Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by mc661 on Mar 21st, 2006 at 10:43pm
I need to review this.

I would advise to withdraw the complaint as then it cant be used as 'case law' by other abnoxious police forces. In fact I only know of two at the moment, herts and dyfed poywes.

I suggest that we start sending in random requests to herts. I have a totally new FOI about recruitment going thru herts atm and am waiting for them to refuse it cos im a 'previous customer', however this time its on behalf of a ward member sent in my postion as councillor. Wouldnt be very good for them to refuse it would it :-)


Title: Re: FOI Response - Herts Constabulary
Post by GrahamH on Nov 3rd, 2007 at 2:53pm
Not sure where this has sprung from (well done if it's someone on here), but here on the Front page of the Herts Advertiser this week. Looks like a journalist is having a bit of a go at the arrogant buggers


Quote:
Counting cost of police calls

CALLERS to the police who ring the non-emergency 0845 telephone number could find themselves out of pocket.

Herts Police recommends callers to use their non-emergency number 0845 3300 222 if they are not dialling 999 in an emergency.

But even though the police website claims that 0845 numbers from a landline are charged at a local rate wherever people call from, Central Office of Information guidelines maintain that is not always the case.

In its document Better Practice Guidance for Government Contact Centres it says that 0844 and 0845 numbers can be charged at up to 5p a minute from BT lines and should never be referred to as "local rate" in any publicity.

Dave Lindsay, a spokesman for the "Say No to 0870" campaign website, points out that only a tiny minority of BT's customers are on a "non-discounted" package entitling them to pay around the same for a an 0845 number as they would pay for a local geographical call.

A Herts Police spokesperson said they were looking into whether they had the most cost-effective system with the existing 0845 number or should look at switching to an 03 number.

And Chief Supt Steve Ottaway, head of operation support, said they were committed to providing a single number which would be easy for people to remember and which they could use without being financially penalised.

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