Clearing the moat: Sussex’s expenses scandal

The moat around Falmer House is looking suspicously clean and 519198_cd2266b1[1]it’s no coincidence that this is the week that Sussex has its own expenses scandal.

Gabrielquotes can exclusively reveal that since June 2010, the Univeristy of Sussexpenses has paid out over £50,000 in reimbursements to senior staff for travel, accommodation and so on.

Vice-Chancellor Michael ‘I lusm students’ Farthing opted to receive nearly £7,500 – my total tuition fees over the same period and then some – while Pro-Vice Chancellor Chris Marlin, who does a lot of gruelling foreign travel at public expense, took just shy of £9,000.

The stand-out winner in this game of It’s a Living, however, was Registrar & Secretary John ‘Duck House’ Duffy, who is personally responsible for over half of the entire bill. Here’s what the £25,878.57 he claimed looks like, one dot for each pound of University funding:

john-duffy-expenses-claim

Thank goodness we’re not in a recession otherewise such garnishment-of-salary might seem inappropriate.

I had asked for copies of individual expenses claims so we could find out exactly what the money has been going on, but sadly the University forgot to respond to that part of my freedom of information request. A reminder has been sent…

Sussexgate pt.94

Meanwhile, on the subject of Sussex’s freedom of information deficiencies, readers may remember that the Information Commissioner ordered them to release the entire unredacted catering contract, including the bits the University had tried to suppress (which included the financial arrangement and the service standards promised by Chartwells; so basically, erm, the contract).

Sussex: a land of faceless bureaucrats

Sussex: a land of faceless bureaucrats

Well, Sussex was having none of it. They are appealing to the Information Tribunal with lawyers and legal costs and other good uses of public money; so the Information Commissioner and I will be responding in due course, making the case for transparency. Watch this space!

(And oh yes: Sussex missed the deadline to appeal to the Tribunal and had to beg for an extension. Not that missing deadlines is like them at all.)

Finally on this niche subject area, Sussex FOI officer Alice Robertson recently replied to an online request for information as follows:

alice-robertson-sussex-foi-response

So she’s presumably not counting:

  • the High Court injunction proceedings in March 2013 against “persons (including students of the University of Sussex) entering or remaining on the campus for the purposes of protest action” – because that couldn’t possibly be characterised as legal action against participants in protests;
  • the County Court possession order obtained in December 2013 against “persons (including students of the University of Sussex) entering or remaining on the campus for the purposes of protest action” – because that couldn’t possibly be characterised as legal action against participants in protests;
  • disciplinary proceedings earlier this year against the Sussex Five for their role in the occupation of Bramber House, for which the University legal bill came to over £60,000 – because that couldn’t possibly be characterised as a disciplinary legal action against participants in protests.

Nothing like transparency, is there, ladies and gentleman; nothing like transparency.

Grab a Pugh

Passports-3_2937718b[1]HM Passport Office has stacks and stacks (pictured) of almost 500,000 unprocessed passport applications which are going to cause Brits to miss their summer holidays. MPs are not happy; and I’m sure none of them have any personal interest in the matter at all.

Home Secretary Theresa May accepts that this amounts to a “backlog” but denies that it is a “crisis”. Passport Office chief executive Paul ‘£104k a year’ Pugh, though, denied that it was even a backlog.

Questioned by MPs last week, he was asked whether he would apologise to the country for cocking up so severely. He said, and this is genuine: “I’d like to say that we, in our organisation, we recognise how important the passport is.”

Reminded that the question was not, “Do you know what a passport is?” but, “Would you like to apologise?” the Yes Minister character continued: “We exepct each year to serve over 5.5m customers, every year, year in year out.”

This wasn’t doing it for the MPs either, so Pugh eventually conceded: “I would like to put on record that we realise the impact it has on individual members of the public when we don’t meet their needs.”

…Nope, that wasn’t an apology either. His next attempt: “I absolutely recognise the anger and distress that people… that some people have suffered.”

After what must have been the Home Affairs Select Committee’s eighth or ninth attept he finally gave in: “In every case where we haven’t met our service standards, we are sorry for that.”

Like trying to get blood out of a stone. Or a passport out of HM Passport Office…

I was in the public gallery for this virtuoso performance and next to me sat a young man from the Home Office who was taking notes. These notes included: “Paul Pugh says there’s no-one better than him who could do the job. Apparently,” and, “Paul Flynn has an excellent voice.” Gripping stuff!

gove-british-values

Express permission

Earlier this month, retailer John ‘never knowingly working-class’ Lewis was ordered to pay damages to a Sky News journalist who got fed up with their spam email.

Photo 19-06-2014 10 48 23So last week I plucked up the courage to hit the UNSUBSCRIBE button on the latest in a series of irritating adverts I’ve been receiving from Sophie @ National Express. I suspect that Sophie isn’t a real person, but National Express is definitely a real coach company (although their timetable does contain some particular services which seem to be fictitious) so I thought I might win some mega-bucks when they keep sending me emails anyway.

But sadly it is not to be, because when I unsubscribed this is what I was told:
national-express-spamTaken into account?! I don’t want them to take it into account in their factual matrix, I want them to stop sending me drivel from made-up saleswomen.

Next time I’m catching one of their coaches, their request that I pay for my ticket will be ‘taken into account’, I can guarantee that.
ed miliband gabrielquotes

Labour spitting feathers

The Labour Party announced an inspirational new policy last week on Twitter. Said policy was:

enhanced-buzz-32176-1403183807-14[1]Unfortunately this was almost immediately deleted after Labour bosses noticed that they’d been hacked, although not before various Internet wits had commented on it – such as Guido Fawkes’ advice, “For more information, call 28 28 20.”

Owl-winnie-the-pooh-6509608-325-232[1]

Ed Miliband’s lack of leadership ‘heffalump in the room’ say owl leaders

To refresh my memory from my distant childhood I looked up the Winnie the Pooh character ‘Owl’ on Wikipedia. It told me that:

Owl believes that he is the most intelligent animal in the wood, but he is really quite scatterbrained. He often rambles on into long-winded speeches and uses words that his friends do not understand. Though Owl likes to present himself as very knowledgeable, like most of the other characters he does not spell very well.

Now what Labour Party figure does that remind me of…? Here’s A A Milne to tell us himself:


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katy in the community

Five of the best

All parties in the case of Gabrielquotes v Sussex
In tonight’s episode, the House of Commons was played by Michael Farthing, Chris Marlin and John Duffy, with contributions from the rest of the cast. HM Passport Office was mismanaged by Paul Pugh and the Home Affairs Select Committee went into attack formation at the command of Keith Vaz MP. The Labour Party’s Owl Policy was formulated by A A Milniband. This was an Gabrielquotes production!
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Results Day cut-out-and-keep special

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*and every week

Who says higher education is dominated by the upper classes?

Who says higher education is dominated by the upper classes?

Oxford and Cambridge have many famous exam-related rituals (see picture) as any fule kno, but readers of this blog will also be aware that Sussex has some traditions of its own when it comes to assessment and results.

As it happens, and rather thrillingly, today is Results Day. And since it’s Friday the 13th what could possibly go wrong, I hear you cry?

Well, here’s a quick and handy guide:

sussex-university-results-day-traditionsBest of luck to all my fellow soon-to-be-graduands and here’s to Sharon Jones remembering to work out everyone’s degree classification!

Don’t tell him, spike!

studulike-anti-homeless-studs-london

(“Anti-homeless studs at London residential block prompt uproar”, The Guardian, 7 June 2014)

Don’t Spy on Us (pls.)

Privacy[1]Saturday at Shoreditch Town Hall saw a day of action by campaigners which went by the name of Don’t Spy on Us. The day was introduced by a video from Stephen Fry describing suveillance as “squalid and rancid”.

The Guardian reported: “The day of action is billed as the biggest privacy event of 2014, with more than 500 people attending the event.”

And their National Insurance numbers are…

No more of this blog post relates to the covert interception of private communications

The Old Bailey courtroom looks terribly cramped

The dock looks terribly cramped

The trial of Rebekah Brooks and six of her friends/ colleagues/ husbands/ ex-partners has been dragging on but it’s now nearing its conclusion. After substantial closing speeches from prosecutor Andrew Edis QC and counsel for the defence John Kelsy-Fry QC, the judge has now dispatched the Old Bailey jury to reach their verdict.

To give an idea of the length of the trial, The Guardian helpfully tells us: “In Mr Justice Saunders’ summing-up of the case, which is now in its 126th day…” – and 126 days seems quite long for a summing-up.

At this stage, Ms Brooks must be getting a bit worried, and to take her mind off it she’s kindly agreed to pen a small ditty for this blog. We’re honoured to present:


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The trial continues.

The school of hard knocks

enoch-powell-007[1]Michael Gove (pictured) has been in trouble this week after it emerged that sinister forces have been at work trying to take over Britain’s schools. And this time it wasn’t the Krillitane

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The Skin Game

The BBC reports that the Harvard University library contains a book tastefully bound in the human skin of “an unnamed female mental patient” who, readers will be relieved to hear, “died of natural causes” (yeah, that’s what they all say). I would have thought there might be some minor safeguarding of vulnerable adults issues with a doctor tanning the hide of their own patients, but what do I know.

Those skin-bound books in full:

  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fur
  • The Goosebumps Series
  • On Liberty by Chamois Chakrabarti
  • That French hit The Little Leopard-Prints
  • Skintin on the Moon
  • Fifty Suedes of Grey
  • Sherlock Holmes in The Adventure of the Resident Patent
  • Johanna Spyri’s Hide-y
  • A Tale of Two Kitties (spoiler alert: only one survived) (That’s enough skin jokes. -Ed.)

katy bourne popular culture

Five of the best

Don’t spy on these people
In tonight’s episode, the privacy festivities were organised by ***, *** and ***. Charlie Brooks starred in Sitting in the Dock of the Bailey although perhaps Charlie Brooker would prefer the song. The University of Sussex was mismanaged by John Duffy (let’s face it, Farthing doesn’t have a look in any more). The skin jokes were absolutely purrr-fect and were written by me, Gabriel Webber. This was an Gabrielquotes production!
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