Discussion in 'Off-Topic Chat' started by Anno Draconis, Jan 6, 2007.

  1. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Here's one for all you public servants out there to vent your spleen on. I was talking to my dad earlier today (who is a local councillor in North Wales) and we got on to the topic of the current government's obsession with setting ridiculous targets for absolutely everything. I work in a small business so we don't have to deal with this but I know it's a big issue in education and health. Anyway, the example he gave me, which made me laugh out loud, was this:

    Isle of Wight council, like all councils, has been having its performance assessed by the Audit Commission. In common with all councils, they have a set of targets given by central government covering everything from reducing the number of truancies to the amount of recycling they do. For every target they fail to meet they are penalised, the final assessments ranging from 0 stars (terrible) to 4 (v. good). Isle of Wight (which has a bit of a poor record anyway) was penalised for not meeting their target for reducing the number of fatal road accidents on their roads. But here's the hilarious part.

    Since records began (and for all I know, since the invention of the internal combustion engine) the Isle of Wight has not had a fatal road accident. They are being penalised for not reducing the number from a starting point of zero. :eek:

    Now, I have little time and no sympathy for most local authorities. Certainly Flintshire (where my dad is) is a hotbed of incompetence and corruption. But does this strike anyone else as, well, stupid? Really, really, mind-bogglingly stupid?

    Or is it just me? :confused:
  2. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    Andy, you're speaking to the wrong people. Unlike most of the nations bureaucrats most of the members here have a brain, and are at least halfway through the operating manual ;)
  3. oddbod

    oddbod Member

    No no no no no.. yes!

    With all the available head transplanting technology being researched while flu sufferers cop it, between them, the council and local NHS trust were supposed to resurrect at least two road fatalities from other counties to contribute to greater targets.

    Like - 2 out of 10 road accidents are caused by drunken drivers, so 8 out of 10 are caused by sober ones... hummmm..
  4. Will the Sec

    Will the Sec Active Member

    Yes, it is.

    For a bureaucrat to not make an allowance for a ridiculous anomaly of their own volition, or saying "the computer won't let us change it" is annoyingly typical. There are too many people in public service who act as automatons or data punchers, and are reluctant or frightened to speak out against daft practices.

    The local authority has to play its part though, and should make enough noise until the idiocy is acknowledged and challenged.

    Will the Civil Servant (at least until tomorrow)
  5. andyp

    andyp Active Member

    That's the problem with the public (and private for that matter) services in this country - if you can't measure something, it doesn't exist!
    It's all about "justifying your job", if you can produce a set of nice-looking numbers that prove you do something, you're OK, if not you're in trouble and "need development" or something like that.
    Problem is you can't measure things that are subjective, like politeness, customer service (giving a salutation when you answer the phone gets you points, why? no-one listens to the first 5 secs anyway!!), helpfulness and common sense, all qualities sadly disappearing from everywhere as people aim for stupid targets.

    Anyone seen the latest wheeze (was on BBC News last night) - coloured tape on desks to show you the most efficient place to put your pen????
    What really chags me off is that it's taxpayer's money - yours and mine - being squandered on "consultants" to tell managers common-sense things that their staff could tell them if they'd only listen to them instead of ignoring them as of a lower grade and hence beneath their dignity to speak to.
  6. needmorevodka

    needmorevodka Member

    No, it's not just you. You just reminded me of something my mum said recently. Our local council put in a speed camera somewhere silly. You know, one of those ones where you might just accidently speed up a couple of mph, rather than a place where actual accidents happen. To justify this they obviously had to come up with some fatalities on the stretch of road. The thing that bothered me is that one of these fatalities turned out to be a bloke having committed suicide by jumping off a bridge! :confused: I suppose they'll catch loads of people on this new camera and claim they're reducing accidents. They must think we're daft :rolleyes:

    IYOUNG Member

    I personally am not a great advacate of the increasing Targets imposed by the goverment however I would be interested in a couple of things before commenting:-

    Can the original poster:-

    1. Reveal the actual question that is posed by the Audit Commission, not just a perceived one?

    2. Reveal the source of the answer given in the post?

    Sometimes it can be very easy to critisise from the outside without knowing the full details of the target asked.


  8. Is this really a true story? Do you and your Dad actually KNOW that this story is 100% true? Cos it seems like the most ridiculous, dumbest thing in the world. Seriously, I'm no Margaret Thatcher, but chuffin 'ell... I bet my p i s s up in a brewery would more successful than the people who even ALLOWED for that target to be set. In FACT... I like this story, as it makes me feel clever. I am going to always remember this and stand firm in my thoughts that I am cleverererererererer than these so called important people.

    /\ /\ /\ /\ this made me laugh.
  9. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    Who says you are not clever anyway Helen ;)
  10. SuperCat

    SuperCat Member

    Firstly, why are you slating local authorities when it is the audit commission which assesses councils and therefore not the councils fault when they are judged against certain criteria set by central government? The Audit Commission assesses the performance of councils and the services that they provide for local people and these assessments help councils to focus on improvement. The assessments comprise evidence from other external review bodies plus the AC's judgements.

    You clearly have not got a clue about what you are talking about, people in the private sector like you have no idea the processes local government officers must go through to get things done, and its most of the time due to fussy old local members who are only interested in how it might make them look to the general public, if it makes them look good they're all for it. They spend their time trying to get credit for the work that hard working council staff put in to achieve better servioces etc.

    I don't know why you have little time for most local authorities, if they shut down for a month you'd have something to complain about then as rubbish would be piling up around you.

    Wouldn't think Flintshire council would be too chuffed about you spouting off rubbish about them on a public forum, probably with no evidence.
  11. IYOUNG

    IYOUNG Member

    Couldn't have put it better myself, hence I asked for the relevant sources of the information.

    You wouldn't beleive the absolute tripe reported in the media, press about Local Councils.
    If we spent more time working on improvements than having to waste our timr dealing with innaccurate reportng things would be better all round.
  12. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    You mean like it is currently here - after the council decided (in the name of Customer Service Improvements mind you) to halve the number of visits by the bin men to once a fortnight... yet not reduce the rates by a penny!!

    Councils have a lot to answer for. My family produce no more rubbish than we have for the last 10 years, yet I now have no choice but to visit the local tip at least once each fortnight to remove the black bags that don't fit into the green wheelie bin. If I didn't do this, there'd be quite a bad smell around my house.
  13. Di

    Di Active Member

    Our Council have also stated that if the bin lid does not shut completely, then the bin will not be emptied. We too therefore have to take to the tip any extra rubbish.
  14. IYOUNG

    IYOUNG Member

    So you really think the Council in their wisdom just thought, I know just for a bit of a weeze lets only collect once a fortnight instead of weekly?

    Do you not think careful consideration to all the, Health issues were not discussed in detail and a carfully constructed case put forward?

    You say your family produces no more rubbish than 10 years ago, perhaps you might be interested in the Recycling targets set by the government which is actively trying to ease the Waste disposal crisis issues we all face? By encouraging Green wheelie bins to be used this is attempting to address that issue. If you want them to be collected as well fine, funnily enough collecting twice as many bins takes longer and therefore costs money.

    You fall into the trap like many others who think the Council is an easy target and play the ''there just wasting our money trap'' without giving the issues any real thought.
    Anything in life has to be paid for in some way.
  15. Di

    Di Active Member

    Ahh recycling!

    We do have recycling ... but only to a limited degree. We are given one box into which we can put any tins and glass bottles and a bag for paper. There is no collection for plastic or plastic bottles, again, we have to drive these to the local tip. We have had a notice that as from February, we will be allowed to put cardboard in our "brown bin". OK, this will be recycled in a fashion, ie, it will be turned into compost along with the rest of the garden waste, but surely cardboard could be recycled to use as cardboard?

    There seems to be no set standard for recycling across the country. We travel quite a bit with the caravan, both here and in France.

    We've been on a caravan site where, in the UK, when we've taken the rubbish across and put in the bins, the site owner has gone out and, wearing rubber gloves, has gone through the rubbish and sorted it to - plastics, including bags, wrappers, bottles etc, - cardboard - tins - bottles - paper. By the time she was finished, the only stuff left in the bag was "dirty" rubbish, tea bags, greasy type food wrappers. So if one Council can be this vigilant, why not all?

    In France, we've visited the same site for four years. On previous years, we've seperated all our rubbish out and used all their recycling facilities - papers - cardboard - plastics, including cartons and bottles - (top are collected separately) - glass bottles. This year, sorry, last :rolleyes: year, on arriving at the site, we were handed a yellow sack. We were to put ALL our recyclable materials, from flimsy celophane wrappers, plastics, cardboard cartons etc. There was still a sepearate box for glass bottles, but everything was taken. There's even a "pain pour les animaux" box. :rolleyes:

    I don't mind recycling, I like to think we're good at it, as you will have seen Vicki complain, I even sat and wripped the selotape off the Christmas wrapping and recycled the Christmas paper, but surely, having to drive half of it to the local tip is then adding more fumes into the environment as well as being likely to put off those less keen.
  16. IYOUNG

    IYOUNG Member

    I'm no expert on the art of recycling but do you not think some Councils have good reason for not offering door to door collection of Plastics and Plastic Bottles?

    I do, its called cost in return for not much resalable value to the companies that recycle such items.

    Its very easy to comment from the outside without a full understanding
  17. BigHorn

    BigHorn Active Member

    Recycling targets fall into this nonesense catagory as we currently do not have the technology or the willing labour to process it. A hugh proportion of our rubbish is therefore sent abroad to be processed. Transport emissions and reprocessing will negate any environmental benefit.

    Read this Gardian Reporst snippet:-

    More than a third of the waste paper and plastic collected by British local authorities, supermarkets and businesses for recycling is being sent 8,000 miles to China without any knowledge of the environmental or social costs - and to the complete surprise of most consumers.

    New government figures suggest that exports to China are running at 200,000 tonnes of plastic rubbish and 500,000 tonnes of paper and cardboard a year - a huge increase on just three years ago.

    Much of the plastic sent to China is packaging but a Guardian investigation has found that agents for Chinese companies are now buying up and exporting thousands of tonnes of unwashed bottles, containers, and other household waste.
  18. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    No, for the simple reason that I got it second hand. I'll ask my dad next time I see him.

    Erm, well, if you read the post you would see that despite "not having much sympathy for LAs" it is in fact the Audit Commission's approach that I find to be "really, really stupid". In other words, in this case I find myself sympathising with the poor, hard-done-to LA.

    A well constructed argument, thanks for that

    In fact I do, as amongst many other things I have responsibility for waste disposal, Health and Safety and getting building regs approval for our factory extension at my company and have to deal on an almost daily basis with the mindless bureaucracy that is strangling the nation's small businesses to death.

    Really? Imagine the inconvenience of a democratically elected representative of the people wanting to actually know what's going on - shocking.

    In some cases, I'll buy that. I know that there are many useless councillors; there are also many council staff who are far from "hard-working". In Sunderland, where my mother-in-law works as a library assistant, the senior staff in the library department are notorious amongst their own staff and other departments for their incompetence. Unfortunately, it's so difficult to actually dismiss a council employee for being a bit lazy and useless that they simply don't bother.

    They wouldn't have to shut down for a month, it happens anyway. Once again my recycling (which I have carefully sorted into cans, glass, papers and green waste, as I was doing for years before the council started collecting it) has not been collected on the due date. When I asked the council pest control department last summer for a quote on getting rid of a wasps nest (note that I expected, and was quite happy, to pay the going rate for this) they never returned my calls. I note too that in Ian's reply about waste disposal he doesn't explain why, if the reason for restrictions on waste collection is that national and local government want us to reduce the amount of waste we produce, it's OK for people to take as much extra waste as they want to the tip?

    In fact there is considerable evidence regarding the perfidy of officers of Flintshire County Council, and contrary to your earlier statement I do know what I'm talking about here. Consider the case of Andy Sutton, the former Internal Audit Manager, who resigned on health grounds after being taken ill with stress in 2001. This was after a number of his investigations into illegal payments and massive financial incompetence had been blocked by senior officers in the council. He claimed constructive dismissal at an industrial tribunal in 2002 and won both the initial hearing and the subsequent appeal. Or the cases of Derek Robinson and Tina Harrison Jones, senior managers in the benefit section jailed for fraud in 2001. Private Eye's "Rotten Boroughs" column regularly features the misdeed of FCC, and currently the Director of Community and Housing is suspended pending investigations into what PriceWaterhouse Coopers called a "substantial unbudgeted deficit". I won't go on, it gets too depressing.

    This has drifted a long way from what I intended the topic to be, for which I apologise - although I didn't start the drifting! What I was actually trying to say initially, and obviously didn't say clearly enough, was that I'm astonished at how local authorities are being penalised for meeting targets that are, frankly, ill-thought out, and in the anecdotal example I gave, truly bizarre.
  19. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    WOW, chip on ones shoulder here eh. Why are you getting so hot under the collar about all this? Do you have an axe to grind?

    Did I actually say that...? no I didn't. So please do not put words in my mouth.

    Do I think that...? no I don't. So please do not presume to know what I think.

    Possibly - but most certainly with cost-cutting objectives without due consideration for Customer Service would certainly be at the forefront.

    My point exactly; it costs money, and they need to reduce that expenditure. Period. never mind what is required... just targets that's all.

    Oh for sure, we certainly recycle - am more than happy so to do, and have been doing this for many years - even before the council decided that all I should get for each 2 week period was a small 2' by 18" by 12" box to put it all in.

    Oh do I? Thank you for your advice. Once again you fall into the arrogance trap and presume to know what I have and haven't thought about. Seems like you haven't given your post much through here Mr Young.

    OMG, really... well would you belive it, I didn't know that. Another peach there, thanks so much.

    Have a good day and get that chip off your shoulder.
  20. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    Hmmm... first you say this...
    Then you say this...

    I am confused here. So are you an expert or are you not an expert...??

    1st you say you are not an expert, but then you make the comment above implying one shouldn't comment without requisite knowledge..

    Shot oneself in the foot there eh ;)

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