Political

Cabinet Office: correspondence chaos

It’s all a bit rum. Back in December I put in a complaint via the Cabinet Office website about Gordon Brown. It was a pretty minor issue – using government letterhead for partisan purposes – but given how stringent the rules imposed on other bodies around the country, it seemed to me worth all of oooh 30 seconds to make the point of principle.

But I got no reply. And I don’t like that sort of thing…

So I sent another message via their website. And got no reply.

So I wrote a letter. And got no reply.

So I wrote to my MP, who then wrote to the Cabinet Office. He got a reply saying the query had been passed on to the Prime Minister’s Office, but then heard nothing further.

So I asked him to write to the Prime Minister, which he did. And got no reply.

So I asked him to write again to the Cabinet Office (because I wanted to know why they hadn’t replied to me despite three times of asking – and, who knows, maybe there is a problem with their website they should know about and fix). He did. And got no reply.

So I asked him to write again to the Cabinet Office, which again he did. And got no reply.

Tally so far: two emails and one letter from me plus four letters from my MP spread out over nine months and what to show for it all? Just one holding reply saying the issue had been passed on.

(Conspiracy theorists may at this point wish to mutter how implausible it is that seven times correspondence has been missed out and it just goes to show I’ve really stumbled on some secret plot to subvert our democracy with letterhead abuse.)

So I thought this time I’d try submitting a request under the Data Protection Act. After all, surely someone, somewhere will have some record of even one of these pieces of correspondence?

But no. Despite the Data Protection Act placing a legal obligation to properly answer my request for copies of any correspondence involving me, I’ve been told no trace has been found of anything by the Cabinet Office.

Every email and letter appears to have disappeared into thin air, along with any knock-on internal correspondence generated by them. Not even one internal email saying, “We’ve had another letter about that Pack. Anyone know what we did with the last one?”

They’ve not even found a copy of the one letter to which they did reply. Pretty impressive to reply to a letter that you now say you don’t have.

And they’ve not even found a copy of their own one reply. Now that’s classy.

(One aside: the data protection person I’ve spoken to about this was very helpful and is now going to hunt further. But that’s not really the point.)

It’s just possible I suppose that the Cabinet Office is terribly efficient in every other way and the only correspondence it’s lost is everything to do with me. But isn’t it more likely that this highlights a correspondence and record keeping system that is in chaos?

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