Category Archives: Whitehall

Government ‘Instagram your policy’ scheme flops with just four entries

A blue-sky drive by Vince Cable’s department has spectacularly flopped after only four people took part. Redolent of a backseat-of-the-cab scheme from The Thick Of It, the initiative, dubbed “Instagram Your Policy”, joins a long list of failed Whitehall social media initiatives.

The original morale-boosting vision was that BIS employees would submit photos of their policies from the Instagram mobile phone app, which would then be showcased on the BIS Pinterest board.

Here is the, errr, cream of the crop:

This picture symbolises UK manufacturing. Apparently.

We’re not quite sure what the UK Space Agency meant here.

The government’s digital@BIS blog wrote:

“We got a disappointingly low level of responses – four, although we’ve been promised a fifth.”

The department’s senior digital engagement adviser seemed utterly stumped by the lack of interest: “we’re not quite sure why the response was this low”.

In refreshing honesty uncharacteristic of Whitehall, the mandarin admitted:

“We’ll need to do some internal thinking about if and how we run this type of initiative again.”

Perhaps they should concentrate on the Business and Skills bits.

Larry the Cat more popular as chancellor than Osborne or Cable

More bad news for Osborne today, as a poll on the Daily Telegraph website shows readers would prefer Larry the Downing Street Cat to be chancellor.

Larry, who holds the office of Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office (yes, it is a real thing), had more than double the support enjoyed by either Osborne or Vince Cable, who last night said that he would probably be a good chancellor. He was also beating William Hague, Ed Balls and others.

This is a slight improvement for Osborne from yesterday’s comparisons to a pigeon.

Why did the Cabinet Office lie about Sky TV at Number 10?

The Cabinet Office have admitted that it has nine Sky boxes installed on its estate, at a cost of over £200 per month — despite  previously denied having any.

In response to a request made under the Freedom of Information Act, the Cabinet Office claimed to hold “no information” about Sky boxes. But surely enough, after a review was requested, a second reply was sent out this month, correcting the record:

“you were wrongly informed that information was not held in relation to your request … The Cabinet Office has 9 Sky receivers on its estate costing £227.00 per month.”

It’s worth considering that this request came just after the horsegate scandal caused the Prime Minister much embarrassment, and was considered during a period when the Leveson Inquiry was providing frequent embarrassing revelations — including Cameron’s text messages to Ms Brooks. Could his office have been wary of more headline-grabbing News International connected revelations?

This is certainly not the only time the Cabinet Office have been forced to “correct” themselves on FOI responses.

Information Commissioner threatens Cabinet Office over website violations

The Cabinet Office and Department for Transport could face fines worth hundreds of thousands of pounds following a warning issued by the Information Commissioner today.

The ICO’s warning relates to the use of cookies on the Cabinet Office website, which breaks new EU regulations. The new rules require sites to obtain consent before saving cookies on a user’s computer.

The departments have been given 28 days to explain why they have not taken steps to comply with the changes. Failure to respond to the warning could lead to a fine of up to £500,000 – although the ICO has said it is “unlikely” that financial penalties will be imposed.

Observant readers will note that Scrapbook is also currently in breach of the regulations – as are the BBC, Sky, Facebook, Tesco, the Scottish Government, Barclays, the NHS, Apple and more.

At least we’re in good company.

Government builds £1.7m website that staff can’t use properly

Yesterday saw the release of an updated version of the government’s £1.7 million GOV.UK website for public services, which it is claimed will save the government money. This would all be lovely — if civil servants themselves could use it properly.

It seems that a large number of staff in central departments are still using the ancient Internet Explorer 6 browser — released by Microsoft in, erm, August 2001. When civil servants were recently asked to road test the site, they were confronted by messages telling them to upgrade their browsers.

Despite the government claims that IE6 is “no longer fit for purpose as a corporate web browser”, a number of departments, including the Home Office, DWP, DECC and HMRC, still cling to the software.

Even Bill Gates is telling people to ditch IE6.

Alarm clock Britain: getting up earlier is now called “remoding”

In what is a contender for the most cringeworthy video ever produced by Whitehall, the Department for Transport has released a video in which cabinet ministers implore Londoners to get up earlier in the morning and avoid using the tube and buses during the Olympics. This unwelcome advice is euphemistically referred to as “remoding”.

Scrapbook wonders whether transport secretary Justine Greening could sound less convincing:

“I’m remoding at the moment and having a good old walk up to Cabinet. It does me a lot of good.”

Meanwhile, Francis Maude is preserving his hoard of petrol by cycling to work. The clearly out of breath cabinet secretary said:

“Actually it’s great, you feel great afterwards — a bit puffed, but it gets the circulation going!”

With the department’s flagship HS2 project remoded out of the Queen’s Speech, DfT ministers evidently have plenty of free time on their hands.

Vodafone executive quits amid $2.6bn tax avoidance scandal

Vodafone’s top lawyer in India has quit after being tangled up in a four-year long tax avoidance scandal. The row has seen the Indian government bullied by its biggest foreign corporate investor — but officials are not giving up on extracting $2.6bn from the company.

Executive Andre Jerome led Vodafone’s defence against the Indian government, which imposed a $2.6bn tax bill on them for the takeover of Indian mobile interests from Hong-Kong based Hutchison Whampoa in 2007. Having lost a case in the Supreme Court, officials are looking to introduce retroactive legislation to recoup the cash.

The dogged determination of Indian authorities stands in marked contrast to Britain’s HMRC, who let Vodafone off tax bills of up to £7bn after senior civil servants — such as permanent secretary Dave Hartnett — were lunched to within an inch of their lives.

On tax enforcement, Britain could learn a lot from its former colony.

Rupert Murdoch’s plans to launch school with Michael Gove

Rupert Murdoch’s written evidence to the Leveson Inquiry reveals that News International planned to launch a Free School with the support of Michael Gove.

The documents reveal Murdoch planned to discuss founding the school with Gove after News International’s plans to fund an Academy in East London fell through against a backdrop of protest.

Opposition to the development centred around News Corporation’s ownership of education technology provider Wireless Generation — and fears that students would become guinea pigs for the testing of profit-making technology. NewsCorp executives have claimed:

“Today’s classroom looks almost exactly the same as it did in the Victorian age …The key is the software.”

Murdoch met with Gove — twice at the press baron’s home — on four occasions throughout 2010 and 2011, with education reform being a principal topic of discussion. News International also met with Gove and Boris Johnson to visit the proposed site of the new school.

The Leveson evidence also show that News International were in contact with staff at the Department of Education to discuss plans for the school project.

Michael Gove took to the airwaves yesterday to heap lavish praise on beleaguered culture secretary Jeremy Hunt.

He may need his colleagues to return the favour before the end of play.

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