I recently submitted a Subject Access Request (SAR) to Sandwell council. This is something that anyone can do in relation to authorities that hold personal information about you as a data subject, and is a provision of The Freedom of Information Act.
This offers a broad brush of potential information, so you are invited to try to narrow it down. One of the subjects that I put forward was about Sandwell’s goose cull of 2013-14 and the campaign resulting in The Local Government Ombudsman decision ruling which upheld my complaint in respect of several parks officers in Sandwell council, as well as their contractor who lied about what they had done. I was awarded the sum of £150, but declined this returning the cheque to then chief executive Jan Britton, who has now left the council after years of truly disastrous control.
As part of this request I asked for all communications and attachments held in respect of this involving elected members and named council officers.
The majority of the information eventually supplied to me by the council, and after serious delay by them on this subject and others, appears to consist mainly of emails that I sent to them, but with all the names redacted of whom they were sent to. This is fairly pointless, given that I still hold all of the emails that I ever sent them going back nearly a decade.
Unfortunately, Sandwell council have redacted all names on the emails about me between officers and members, to prevent me identifying who sent them. I also believe that I have not been given all of the communications by them by any means. I will be appealing this , as there are some aspects which appear to warrant “personal injustice”.
Sandwell council try to cover up.
Back in August 2014, when I had released the film of Pestex undertaking a round up in 2013, (having been told by them and 4 other Sandwell council officers at that time ) that they had been released at the Sandwell Valley), I put in a freedom of information request concerning missing geese at Victoria Park Tipton.
I attempted to find out what had happened only to be lied to again by parks manager John Satchwell, in a phone call which also saw him making veiled verbal threats against me. These were reported to the council via appropriate channels, and you would expect them to be dealt with under the complaints process.
It became clear only after the FOI had been published and a news story broke and became viral, that SMBC had some hasty explaining to do. The council’s explanation as to why they had carried out the cull in these two green flag parks, with the personal vested interests left out in those explanations concerning the then parks manager, were obviously then released to widespread derision and ridicule.
This conversation below , now released publicly for the first time shows the questions that The Birmingham Mail reporter asked SMBC , and also their response. It appears to show someone in SMBC, presumably from their communication spin doctor (liars) department.
The Birmingham Mail , after being contacted by myself, asks the question as I did at the time, as to why SMBC had posted the FOI response to my house, rather than on the whatdotheyknow.com website, where it was publicly available. I stated that this was deliberate to avoid being made public knowledge, i.e in order to protect the council liars.
This email appears to confirm that they were quite aware that the response HAD NOT been posted to whatdotheyknow, and instructs that someone uploads it. The email also states that “this could run”- which of course it did, way beyond the negative reaction that SMBC envisaged!
I have to say that this is a rare example of good local journalism, and unlike that so often given in The Express and Star involving Sandwell council, (see further below in this post )where responses are merely printed as factual and not questioned.
I then asked reasonable questions of the council and appeared on Radio WM , as well as the story going National when the video of pestex rounding up birds was released.
This was obviously a game changer to the council who were by now aware that a major petition was underway to call officer actions to account under scrutiny. As I learned at the time, this was the first time that a petition calling for this had ever been put in to Sandwell’s Labour council.
A bonkers SMBC letter defending the cull and revealing how little they knew
This email was written in September 2014 when the council were on the ropes in terms of the pathetic excuses given for culling the geese. I am not sure if it was written to Animal Aid or another swan rescue organisation, but from the start it swerves answering staright questions. Given that it refers to a letter that I received, this can only have been written by Maria Crompton, or at least briefed for her. This letter was dated 14th August, so just a month before.
- How can “distress” be measured, when no one from SMBC was even present at either the round up or the cull? The birds were clearly in distress when I filmed them being contained in the horsebox.
- Questions of “experience” reveal a great deal, as is the fact that the SMBC respondent wasn’t there at the culling. See highlighted in red.
- The reference to human spittle was the fact that one of the pestex employees spat on the grass at Victoria Park Tipton, and can be seen on the video.
- They cannot answer which sexes were left behind at the site, nor indeed if mates and family groups were split in this random “distressing” episode.
- “There is clear evidence that particularly during the breeding season Canada Geese can be very aggressive and do harm other waterfowl. Whilst I have not witnessed this myself I am reliably informed that this does happen.”
Where do you even start with this one! No “clear evidence” is presented that Canada geese harm other waterfowl, because none exists. In fact it is the opposite, with swans attacking Canada geese throughout the life cycle. The author states they have not witnessed this themselves but are “reliably informed” that this does happen. By whom, I wonder- the same council officer liars who made up statistics and rubbish to justify a cull and then lied about this repeatedly?
- I have looked at SMBC claims into goose numbers and how this appeared to fluctuate at different times before, as well as rubbishing the claim about egg pricking having taken place.
- The most ludicrous statement is given that ornamental ducks were a feature of the past in Sandwell’s parks, but that the geese had contributed to their demise due to aggressive behaviour. What a bloody stupid statement this really is.
- Once again, where is the “clear evidence”?
- Muscovy ducks are of course a “non native species” just as Canada geese are termed. SMBC had ludicrously appeared to have suggested that these had been displaced by the geese, but who had illegally put them there to start with never addressed. One hopes not Sandwell council.
- In terms of the young goslings, the author of the letter has already stated that they were not present at the cull.
- I would point out that at no time did I tell the newspapers that I had seen young goslings being rounded up. I supplied them with several pictures, one of which was of young goslings taken at Dartmouth Park just a few years earlier. This was quite purposeful, as it proved the fact that they were not pricking eggs (see above), and that if SMBC had an issue on numbers then there was “clear evidence” that this was a problem that they had let happen. The goslings featured in the picture on this website header were geese in Dartmouth park that would have been likely to have been amongst those rounded up and killed by Sandwell council. I cannot say for sure what was rounded up at Dartmouth park (including goslings) as I was not there- and neither of course as we know was anyone from SMBC.
Juvenile Canada goose goslings at Dartmouth Park taken 16th July 2011.
A Freedom of information confirmation that SMBC staff were not present at the cull- on SMBC property, and no contract with Pestex.
This email refers to an FOI request that I made about SMBC’S relationship with Pestex and an internal review due to them not answering the questions. I won’t go over this again, as it has been covered HERE. What this email confirms is that in preparing the answer, SMBC were really not up to speed on what to say.
Darren Cooper’s diktat
As can clearly be seen already in this post, and throughout the report The prejudiced lie written in direct response to the council’s cull, SMBC’s logic behind it and actions were objectionable and misguided. Their evidence was far from “clear”. These deserved adequate scrutiny and investigation.
The former Leader of this council , Darren Cooper said nothing publicly about the cull at all for several months. He left it to others to face the flack, yet when he responded to a campaigner who wrote to him stated the following, that it was he and his cabinet that had taken the decision.
This would drop him personally in the shit as it subsequently appeared that no decision at any meeting had ever been recorded and no record of this meeting exists. I still hold the opinion that this was because Cooper was lying to protect Satchwell and no “political decision” was ever made, just an officer one.
It could however confirm that Cooper did not want his personal involvement and wrong doing uncovered , and so ordered the diktat below.
From the SAR, an email which SMBC have purposefully blanked out to disguise who sent it shows the little Hitler dictator author instructing others , probably officers, to not have any contact with myself only through him or her. He or she further then states that I should be treated as “vexatious”. No evidence of vexatious behaviour is provided with the email, because none existed to back up the statement. IT WAS A PURE ATTEMPT BY ONE INDIVIDUAL AT GATEKEEPING POLITICAL AND OFFICER CORRUPTION WITHIN SANDWELL COUNCIL.
I believe the author of this ,due to the abysmal mixing of “is” for “his” to be the said moronic Darren Cooper . Seen here is a direct example of how this gutless, fat yellow coward used public servants and tax payer’s money to do his bidding, and to cover up lies that he knew had been told by his corrupt parks officers, and also most laughably in the process, not even able get his diktat right. 😆 Such a great socialist, but one in true action.
I believe the blank name to be “Jan” , as in Jan Britton, his right hand man in covering up the wrongdoing in SMBC.
Cooper’s actions here are unlawful and without mandate. That any officer of the council complied with such as unilateral a decision would make them as corrupt as he was if they carried them out.
I am not clear if this “vexation policy” was ever introduced against me, though this email in itself was never passed to the LGO in my complaint to them, presumably because she would have come back with the observation “please provide examples of Mr Carroll’s “vexatious” behaviour and your “vexation policy”.
It is clear here that the author of this email was attempting to cause me personal injustice in getting to the truth of the council officers lies, and theirs, and the unrecorded political decision that never existed in record.
DARREN COOPER=DEAD CORRUPT LABOUR AMATEUR POLITICIAN AND COUNCIL LEADER.
Brunswick park bonfire cover up
Another example of Darren Coopers’s lies when council leader occurred again to protect Satchwell and his council’s wrongdoing in the event that left several people injured in 2015.
I have detailed how this event unfolded and the subsequent lies of Cooper repeated faithfully in The Express and Star without question. At this point I would add to this that a former E/S journalist told me that Cooper had personally threatened the Express and Star after he had become leader with pulling all SMBC council advertising with the paper unless they started to print more favourable news coverage of SMBC and its actions. I have no doubt that this was true and have no reason to doubt this journalist.
Did this have any impact with the hierarchy of the paper? Many people have commented elsewhere as to how they covered Cooper and his regime in many subsequent news stories. When I asked SMBC via an FOI as to how much they had paid MNA media/Express and Star during the particular reign of the “supreme” leader, they were completely unable to provide evidence of what they had actually paid them for!
“The invoices we receive are from MNA and we are then able to identify which of these relate to Express and Star. For 2014/15 total spend on MNA Invoices was £72,190.02 – this amount includes £15,661.08 of Express and Star invoices.”
One hopes that it was not for printing “good news” and or gatekeeping bad news like the absolute inaccurate and falsified pack of bullshit lies below, which still appears on their website!
I submitted a freedom of information request about this incident after receiving specific information about it; obviously Cooper’s diktat had not worked and one officer in particular was widely despised by many staff in his command. 😮 😮 😮
This is the internal email that refers to my request.
In the particular case of the Brunswick park Bonfire, there were serious editorial failures in the press reports of accuracy involving the known lies that Cooper was making about the “rogue firework”- after he would have known that the council officer in question and the firework company had gone ahead with the display knowing full well that they were not complying with published guidance and health and safety laws. He knew that one officer had stated that they would “take the responsibility for what happened.”
The subsequent email below I believe to be written by John Satchwell and possibly to Maria Crompton, the cabinet member at the time.
The response to the request was sent to whatdotheyknow by Lynn Floyd, who I believe was Satchwell’s secretary at the time. It is incredible that he was the one dealing with the request knowing what it contained, and this is obviously expressed in this email. The fact that legal services were asked about it is presumably an attempt to ask them if there was any way of dodging answering the request- presumably through the process of caveats within the FOI regime. Obviously there weren’t.
The bombshell in this is the statement “WE STILL DO HAVE FOUR CLAIMS PENDING FOLLOWING THE INCIDENT.”
Presumably Cooper would also have been aware of this, as would many other staff, and no doubt the lies that appeared in the press both from him and the SMBC spin doctors were a direct attempt to stop the people injured from making such claims and establishing the truth, or the public from finding out about it. SHAME ON ALL THOSE WHO WENT ALONG WITH THIS FRAUDULENT DECEPTION.
SMBC’s ignorance of wildlife and pesticide legislation.
The background to this foi request can be read HERE, concerning what I observed two smbc pest control operatives doing in Victoria Park Smethwick, and in particular several failures to adhere to correct pesticide legislation and use.
Question 3 and the published foi request response from smbc stated that
“3. Are rodenticides / chemicals used near children’s play areas, areas of open water or are there any areas where they are restricted from use- and for what reasons?
“Rodenticides are always placed in a safe location, by trained operatives based on a site specific risk assessment and depending on the nature of rodent activity in the area. Rodents are often attracted to water sources so it may be appropriate to bait adjacent to this area but all reasonable steps are taken to protect non-target species. All rodenticides are used strictly in accordance with manufacturer’s guidelines, particularly in relation to health and safety. Other than the precautions referred to above, there are no restrictions on the location where rodenticides are used. “ ”
The internal email relating to the answering the request is quite staggering in that whoever wrote this in relation to non target species i.e those protected in law by the Wildlife and Countryside Act states “I’ve made a few small changes, but in the answer to question 3 I’ve have added a reference to taking all reasonable precautions to protect non-target species. Given Mr Carroll’s interest in wildfowl, I think it would be useful to be able to say this if we are confident that it is true”
Well I certainly hope that they are “confident”!
Make no mistake, there is much missing from this subject access request and what I asked for, particularly involving a matter of fraud that I reported within the parks department. An internal review will hopefully reveal much more, or if not the information commissioner’s office. SMBC have form for trying to cover things up.