Archive for September 2010

It’s above my head, that

September 29, 2010

It’s above my head, that

Well above my pay grade

More trouble than it’s worth

That’s not in the job description

The above are amongst my favourite sayings in local government. Many times I have asked a fellow member of staff for some help and been met with one of the above.

The workings of local government are constantly slowed by the jobsworths amongst us. An example from this morning and many others from the past exemplify the problem:

As your boss is away could you quickly provide me with the finance information for your department?

It’s above my head, that

I just need someone from comms to sign off this press release/e-mail so I can get moving with this

Well above my pay grade

I know this is short notice but is there anyway you could run the printing press after 4:30 this afternoon so we can get the reports done before the end of the day

More trouble than it’s worth

Any chance of assisting me in fighting the gang of ninjas who are attacking the office?

That’s definitely not in the job description

It’s not just that people don’t want to take responsibility; there is a culture of people being both slavish to their job description and scared to go further. Plus, our managers are at fault too; over-reaching from a keen member of staff can lead to upset senior managers and a stern telling off.

If the Big Society is truly about empowerment then I can think of a group of people who could really benefit: junior local government staff.

The axeman cometh

September 28, 2010

In a right old pickle?

Eric Pickles loves nothing better than to cut things. Be it road signs, Chief Executives, Audit Commissions or local government targets his instinct is to cut first and ask questions later. A reformer or incrementalist our Mr Pickles is not.

So it was not surprising to hear that his commitment to wielding the axe had yielded him a place on the Government’s Star Chamber.

For the uninitiated, a place on the star chamber is a sign of two things: 1) That the Minister in question is seen as capable of giving their colleagues a challenging time over the cuts that they are proposing (or not proposing). 2) That they have already come to an agreement with the treasury detailing how much they will trim from their budget and where it will come from.

The fact that Mr Pickles is amongst the first two Ministers to graduate from grilled to griller can only fill those of us in Local Government with dread.


What’s ‘mine’ is ‘mine’… Always

September 27, 2010

A desk worth protecting?

I’ve recently been away from the office for a few days and being a good citizen I cleared my desk and left a big note on it informing people that as I was out of the office people should feel free to use ‘my’ desk.

According to my colleagues, this should have caused me anxiety and at least one of them told me they wouldn’t feel comfortable having someone else sitting at ‘their’ desk.

I asked ‘why?’ and re-discovered a level of crazy in Local Government workers I had almost forgotten.

You see, a local government worker is unnaturally attached to their desk. Attempts to encourage staff members that hot desking is a more sustainable method of organising an office area are more likely to be met with staffing uproar than redundancies.

I’ve never really understood it.


Isn’t this just Big Society in action?

September 24, 2010

Here at We Love Local Government Towers (okay, they aren’t actually towers, but they are ivory) we are always on the lookout for interesting stories about anything and everything to do with local government.  If you happen to have one please do e-mail us at, which is exactly what one of our dear readers has done.

It’s a nice way to end a week which has looked in particular at public sector pay, and whilst it’s not exactly about local government it is interesting that the story doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.  With people sitting next to each other often not talking it’s no wonder that a zoo and the Council didn’t do the same… (more…)

Oblivious but facing oblivion

September 23, 2010

What do you call a man with a seagull on his head?

In the 19th century news was often out of date: After all, whether in the printed or verbal form, it had to physically travel. And yet, my impression is that because of the paucity of information available, when the news did arrive it was widely consumed.

People were therefore informed if a little out of date.

Today things are very different. The news is available 24 hours per day and in more formats than you could possibly imagine; TV, radio, internet, blogs, comic books and of course newspapers and magazines.

Hell, you can even get your news from twitter should you want to.

Despite this torrent of news it seems that in many ways we are less informed than ever.


How rubbish are we?

September 22, 2010

The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would hire them away.  Ronald Reagan

That quote by the former Most-Powerful-Man-In-The-World™ is one that has been playing on my mind ever since the Panorama report earlier in the week, which we commented on here.

What I want to ask now is whether or not the ex-actor might or might not be on to something?  Are the brightest amongst us all ambitious executives climbing the greasy private sector pole, or are there plenty of razor sharp minds plying their trade for the good of their fellow man? (more…)

Pay the going rate or see the talent going

September 21, 2010

My Grandad was a man of few words, but he did once tell me a story which has stuck with me, and which came to mind when I was watching last night’s Panorama piece on public sector pay.  If you’ll bear with me I’ll relay that story here and hopefully it’ll help illustrate a point.

He had a car back in the day when people could still repair them without the aid of a degree in computer programming, but when it broke down once he was flummoxed.  In the end he called out a repair man, who duly turned up with toolbox in hand and took a look under the bonnet.  Without a word he reached into his toolbox, pulled out a screwdriver and tightened a screw – within seconds the engine roared into life.

He then handed my Grandad the bill – £30 (and that was in the day when £30 was a lot of money).  Incensed, good old Grandad demanded to know why on earth he should pay that amount of money when all he’d seen was a single screw turned.  The answer came back that he was only being charged £1 to have the screw turned; he was being charged £29 for the mechanic knowing which screw to turn.

What on earth has this to do with public spending and Panorama I can almost hear you ask?


Decentralisation 2 – The 4 Cs

September 21, 2010

Same picture again: Laziness or thematic???

I promised recently that I would continue writing about decentralisation after my first post served as really a long introduction. If you haven’t read it yet you can do so here although the summary of it would go as follows: the Government are really keen on decentralisation and it poses a real challenge to local authorities.

As much as the Government’s position provides a profound challenge for local authorities I would argue that the challenge is actually shared between policy makers and the local authorities themselves.

Therefore, in the spirit of the Big Society I have decided to offer my thoughts on the four main challenges policy makers need to address over the coming months. Oh, and in the spirit of making it easier to remember (for me) I’ve labelled each of the four challenges with the letter C. (more…)

Is Cold Turkey the Answer?

September 20, 2010

Derren Brown once did a TV show where he got a poor young girl to electrocute a kitten in a box, just by telling her not to do it.  Well, I say electrocute, of course it wasn’t real but she wasn’t to know this.  All he did was strip back a few layers of personality from her and tell her not to press the button or the kitten would fry.

Well, recently I saw this in action local government style.  I was sat in a meeting with people from all over London, listening to a presentation from DCLG on the Big Society.  It was a very interesting talk, and showed a few glimpses of what the future may or may not hold for us over the next 18 months or so.

After listening for a bit we got to the questions and answers stage, which is where things got amusing.  One of my colleagues asked about targets for the Big Society; how will we know if it is a success.  They wanted to know what numbers they should be hitting, how the measurements should be done and what indicators might flag a successful or failing authority.

The response she received was simple: there will be no targets.  No indicators, no percentage increases, no RAG reports – nothing.  The only measure or not as to whether it succeeds will be whether the current government gets re-elected next time around. (more…)

Maybe it’s not just Councils who don’t ‘get’ social media

September 17, 2010

It’s Friday, so no long, ranting post today.  I did however see a Dilbert comic strip which made me smile, so in the spirit of spreading a little Friday joy here it is.