Where’s my clipboard…


You simply could not make this up:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jul/28/windbreak-council-officials-bristol-downs

In summary, a family on a picnic were ordered to take down their windbreak as it was breaking the law.  Apparently, according to a bylaw you are not allowed to erect a ‘semi-permanent structure’.

It is people like these two officers who give Councils a bad name.  The fact that the Council apologised and said that discretion should have been applied here doesn’t matter – the message is out there and the detractors and critics now have another little bit of ammunition to throw at any and all Councils when something doesn’t go their way.  The overwhelming, almost total majority of staff I know are in their jobs for the right reasons – either to make the area they work in a better place or just to earn a bit of money.

It’s the other tiny fraction of (for wont of a better description) jobsworths whose actions result in their well-intentioned colleagues being subjected to ridicule and abuse.  These are the people who paint around dead animals in the road, who stop people from using lawnmowers with certification and who are the general bane of our lives.

I know these individuals exist all over the place, but why do their numbers swell and come to the fore when they join a Council?  What is it about our organisations that make these people honestly believe that a clipboard and a high-vis vest give them the power to go loopy with impunity?

The Health and Safety Executive do a great ‘myth of the month‘ piece regularly, this month it’s the story that candy floss is banned because of the risks associated with the stick, I recommend you check it out.  I might also be able to give you some ideas about somewhere you could put those sticks when you’ve finished with them…

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6 Comments on “Where’s my clipboard…”

  1. localgovaswell Says:

    If you have no common sense then you shouldn’t be allowed to work for a local authority: public service ethos is the why we are all involved… hopefully

  2. localgov Says:

    Agree 100% with the first comment there – having common sense just, well, makes sense.

    Not quite 100% on the second though – some are just in the public sector to earn a living and don’t care whether it’s in the public, private, third or any other sector.

  3. Krin Says:

    Love the link to the HSE site, I’ll be using that in future.

    Apropos of “detractors and critics now have another little bit of ammunition to throw at any and all Councils when something doesn’t go their way”, and to slightly hijack the conversation. The most common statement regarding Councils in Australia realtes to Council workers sitting around on endless smoke breaks. It’s part of the common parlance.

    I wonder how often this is one or two incidents taken out of context and mostly misunderstanding and misperception. Usually this statement is uttered when at maintenance teams doing road repairs are seen sitting on the side of the road, no other class of council worker is targeted, although we’re all tarred with the same brush.

    However, having worked on a road repair crew as part of my work experience at University I found that the times we were sitting around doing nothing is when we were waiting for the raw materials trucks to show up, as soon as they did it was all hands on deck, until we then had to sit around waiting for the next one…

    Seems that education is needed on both sides.

    • localgov Says:

      I totally agree, often it’s the actions of this tiny minority which don’t just tar us with the same brush but add feathers too.

      There may be very good reasons why things are done the way they are, but these are never communicated (and sometimes shouldn’t have to be). The difference is that often council officers are in the public eye and are wearing high-vis vests, so are a visual draw for the eye. If you are in an office there will be plenty of people slacking off or waiting for something, but they are less visible so cop less flak.

      When officers are so visible they have to be cleaner than clean, otherwise they will be pulled up on one thing or another. For example, no-one would begrudge a police officer a cup of tea on a cold and long day walking the streets, but should they actually be spotted coming out of a cafe they attract all manner of criticism.

      And in any case, working or not, they should remember that we are all human, even themselves, so should act with a little humanity and common sense from time to time.


  4. [...] people’s mindsets about what they can and can’t do, and to cut down on some of the more clipboard happy teams that have sprung up over the [...]


  5. [...] by policy or procedure, even if their actions will exacerbate a situation.  Often armed with a clipboard and high-vis clothing, they patrol their domains looking for infractions and opportunities to quote the correct method of [...]


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