Friday, 29 May 2009

Why it's all going wrong

I keep on reading repeated stories in the UK press about 'over zealous' Council Officials making ordinary folks lives a misery, like 'elf 'n safety zombies who enforce seemingly ridiculous rules or Parking Attendants who stick tickets on everything in sight. Writing as one who is familiar with the labyrinthine workings of Local (Mis)government; I feel I may be able to offer a little insight to the Byzantine process that has led to this sorry state of affairs.

The whole business of dealing with British Local Government can be compared to metaphorically stamping upon the proverbial Brontosaurus, (all right, Apatosaurus if you have to be pedantic) tail. Now Local Government in the UK acts very much like the aforesaid giant Jurassic reptile in that it is

a) Unwieldy
b) Slow
c) Heavy on the fuel (Or council tax - very little bang per buck)
d) Overall, not terribly bright

Regarding point d; while individuals within the structure might be in their ordinary off duty lives terribly bright, witty, engaging companions who are a delight to encounter; the procedures that they are forced to oversee / implement are so bereft of the natural adaptability of the human animal that they make any individual who is involved in the process appear like a congenital dullard following a frontal lobotomy. Everything is designed by a committee, and anyone who has ever been project managed by a committee knows how desperate a situation that can be.

Up until the day I left the UK, I was a keen observer of this process at close quarters. The process would go as follows;

Step 1: Person with bee in bonnet (Read, frothingly over the insanity event horizon and accelerating) perceives an 'injustice', real or imagined and gets on their high horse about it 'raising community awareness' (Being a pain in the arse). Person with bee in bonnet becomes Persons with bees in bonnets without any real solution to the perceived problem; that's generally 'somebody else's problem' (Read; the 'government should do something' or 'there should be a law, innit?'). No one gets off their arse and spends ten minutes of their own time doing something pro-active.
Step 2: Person with bee in bonnet bothers local Councillors etc so hard it becomes almost a meme that 'something must be done' even though it is patently obvious that the effect of proposed changes may have an overall negative effect.
Step 3: Harassed at every turn by Person(s) with bee in bonnet, Councillors (Anything for a quiet life) meet to discuss perceived problem. They come to a decision before sloping off for a nice soiree at one of the many 'do's' they get invited to. Said decision is not often a workable solution and more usually arbitrary and completely obtuse. Usually because those making the decisions are well insulated from their immediate effect.
Step 4; A professional (And highly qualified) Manager is recruited to fulfill the task created by all this decision making. Said 'Manager' is generally selected for their complete lack of imagination, humour, and people skills. All that counts are the examinations they've passed. Once hired, they are given taxpayers money and told to fulfill their allotted task.
Step 5; Bodies are hastily recruited to fit the general tasks required by the overall purpose, and a set of hastily agreed guidelines for the undertaking of their duties. The 'Bodies' recruited (I know because I used to be such a 'body') are informed in no uncertain terms upon threat of summary dismissal that they must do what they are told because they have no initiative whatsoever. Bodies are then set loose on an unsuspecting public, 'doing what they are told'. Said Bodies have no choice in the matter if they want to keep drawing wages. They are told to stick parking tickets on everything in sight by Manager. Manager tells them how to do their job, or else.

Predictably, chaos ensues. Mainly because the Councillors (Mostly Political placemen), Manager, and 'Bodies' seem to lack an understanding of the problem they were supposed to solve, or are prevented from doing so by 'diversity' or 'health & safety' guidelines imposed by Central Government. Not to mention the inordinate amount of buck passing and issue dodging that goes on behind the scenes.

For those who insist that the 'government should do something', well they have. The results are all around you.

Thank goodness we don't have so much of that attitude in Canada.

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