Archive for November 2010

Twice as sick

November 16, 2010

Do we have to call it wellness-challenged?

As has been mentioned time and again by the press and the public, local government workers take a lot of time off sick.  Private sector workers do too, but not quite as much as their public sector counterparts.

This is as much news to us as it is to anyone else; i.e. it’s not news at all.  We all know that local government staff are off a fair bit and have a number of ways we are looking at reducing this.  Some well known things include offering incentives to people with 100% attendance, more flexible working (filing whilst doing the splits?!) and simply getting rid of those on long term sick leave.

I know this and many other sickness related facts because I recently attended my organisations’ sickness management training.


The first time I attended it was back in April, when I found it interesting if a little unhelpful in its own way.  We spent the morning looking at why it’s important we focus on this, before the afternoon passed listening to people moaning about their own personal team’s examples of sickness.  Some relayed stories which sparked a sense of sympathy, others were barely restrained in their hatred of what they described as ‘work-shy slackers’. (more…)

A Lament

November 15, 2010


A moon seemed strangely appropriate for a lament


When we started writing this blog there was a sense of genuine joy in our hearts. We wrote posts about council run walking schemes, the attempts of a council to ban their staff from using the stairs, inappropriate use of the ‘reply all’ button, internal fights over dress codes and what happens when someone spills a cup of coffee.

All of these posts were inspired by our sense of love for local government and our amusement at its eccentricities and foibles. And no matter what we said about our jobs and the places we worked, even when we were being serious, there was a sense of enjoyment and fun that permeated through the blog.

Unfortunately, this is no more. More and more the posts we write are serious (ish) discussions of job losses and pay freezes. Obviously, we still write other posts, but when if we do have a little poke at local government it almost feels like somehow we’re helping the Government ‘cut and cut some more’ agenda.

I make this observation because in many ways the blog reflects real life.  (more…)

Takings things too far

November 13, 2010

My Council (as in the one I work for) are keen that we take the concept of visual management more seriously. The nifty slogan we are working by is: ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’.

Yesterday morning I wondered downstairs to talk to a colleague and spotted this:

What exactly is writing equipment?

Writing Equipment??? Really???

Surely, ‘pens’ would have sufficed?

And don’t you just love the fact that post-it notes have their own section!

It gave me a small smile which helped to pass a tough day

I don’t know what she’s on, but I want some…

November 11, 2010

At least we hope they were drunk...

The team of bloggers here see and hear a lot of random, slightly strange things to do with Local Government, be they structural, procedural or the actions of people.  That being said, we are always looking out for other things which might be amusing, so should you have any points you think are a little, well, strange or interesting you can always contact us at

One of our readers recently did so, forwarding this gem of an e-mail bemoaning the ending of their summer walking club (we talked about our own Council’s efforts a while ago); at least we think that’s what it’s about as it’s a little unclear…

Be aware, this is from a relatively senior manager, was sent to about 60 or more people and we haven’t edited it for grammar, spelling or content.  We’re guessing two and a half bottles of red…

I wonder how many of  my walking peers remember  last summer?  Does anyone remember it ?-because for me it certainly was  memorable for having been introduced by Rachel, Kirsty and Keith to lunchtime explorations of the area-an area of hidden delights – history, beauty and revelations – both human and ecological.

But now those lazy , hazy days of summer are gone  (apologies to that wonderful supremely talented American singer-the late Nat King Cole) and  now as I try to tempt my constant walking companion to venture out ,she would peer  up at   the luminous grey  sky ,wrinkle up her pert nose, flick her dark hair  and say”thanks but no thanks- I think its going to rain -summer’s ended”.


I don’t want to go to Chelsea (Local Partnership Zone 4 West)

November 10, 2010

If it's not Dalston, where is it?

I’m dong some work at the minute talking to people about the places they live in, and a simple theme is emerging.

People think locally.

Obvious to you and I perhaps, but often not to the Council.  The Council seems to like dividing the borough up into ever more complex areas, with street partnerships, wards, areas, area partnerships, zones, quarters, places, parishes neighbourhoods, communities and regions all being used somewhere to describe the same things; where people live.

Here’s a revelation – people don’t care what we call these places; they will go on using the same names they always have, and to hell with our definitions.  No manner of advertising will convince me that I live in the North area, or Partnership Zone 1; I’ll always call it by the name it is known by. (more…)

The Lazy journalist index

November 9, 2010


Freedom comes at a cost


A few weeks ago I wrote a post decrying the sad state of a part of our great British media and in particular their favourite tool of laziness; the Freedom of Information Act.

As a part of this post I promised that if people sent in some nominations for those journalists who most often mis-used the FoI Act I’d come up with some form of ranking and publish it on the site.

That was three weeks ago and as the more observant of you would have noticed I haven’t yet written that post. The reasons are two-fold:

1) We actually got quite a good response from information officers and others from around the country and I needed to work out some form of ranking.

2) I suddenly had this feeling that writing a post about lazy journalists with a penchant for FoI requests was not a very bright idea.

However, after much thought I have decided to suck it up and not let down the people who have sent us e-mails etc. On the issue of ranking I have decided to us a very basic system and just give you the three top scorers as these were far and away above the others. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the top three FoI related drains on the public purse:

  • Chris Hastings from the Mail on Sunday
  • Jasper Copping from the Daily Telegraph
  • Adam Thorne from the News of the World

I advise you all to check out some of their work and remember each FoI request can cost about £280 per authority and many of these requests go to over 400 authorities a time… That is over £80,000 per news story; I’ll leave you to judge whether the stories are worth the cost.

These journalists no doubt do a very good job and have hunted out some awesome stories but FoIs about biscuits, equality officers and people with climate change in their job title probably don’t add up to good value to the public purse!

On a slightly lighter note one of my correspondents suggested the following:

Maybe we should submit a FOI request to the major newspapers to find out a few things, namely:

  • how many FOI requests they have made to Local Authorities over the past 12 months;
  • the names of the journalists who made them (also their pay grades and job titles);
  • the nature of these enquiries;
  • how many were to confirm an existing story;
  • how many were speculative;
  • how many led to a positive news release;
  • how many to a negative news release;
  • the increase in circulation figures as a direct result of these stories, and;
  • the number of journalists who can sleep at night.

If only the FoI applied to national newspapers I for one would be the first person to submit that request!

March of the Lemmings?

November 8, 2010

Over the past few days something has started happening in the office.  It’s not major but is curious, and at the moment is unexplained.

Every few hours a group of different people – between three and ten seems about right – walk through the office, looking at printers as they go, clutching their coats and bags and smiling and laughing with one another.  Sometimes they have a leader who is talking at the front, other times they seem bereft of guidance, although they all walk with purpose.

We are slightly bemused by all of this, and have obviously started conjuring up some ideas to explain this phenomenon away.  Below are some of my favourites I have either heard or had sent to me…

Theory 1 – The Tour


Reflections on a bonfire

November 5, 2010

In France this would be a riot; in Britain, it's a celebration

It is bonfire night; a strangely British celebration of one man’s attempt to blow up our Parliament. If you think about it, the whole event seems to be a peculiar celebration of terrorism.

Most years bonfire night seems to pass me by but this year the whole event has a strange imagery; not only are we celebrating an attempt to blow up parliament at a time when the cuts are inviting people to consider how they feel about their politicians, as perhaps not seen for the past twenty years, but in addition I can’t help but reflect on the so-called bonfire of the quangos.

Not only are quangos being ‘burnt’ but right now it feels like the whole of the public sector is at risk of being placed, at least in part, upon the Government’s metaphorical bonfire.

With this in mind I was wondering whether it is possible to extend my local government bonfire metaphor. Here goes:

The guy: The obvious answer would be George Osborne but I’m going for Nick Clegg; the person who ends up taking the flack for a wider conspiracy.  Poor old Nick often looks like he’s taken a good stuffing these days, and despite being full of potentially good words it all looks like it’s going to go up in smoke very easily.

The dry wood: Probably the public sector workers  themselves; chopped up to pay for the sins of others.  On current experience there is the the odd bit of rotten, wet pap that might be difficult to burn away, but that won’t stop it being thrown on anyway.

The cartwheel: Eric Pickles; a man in perpetual motion, essentially going nowhere, singing everything around him whilst everyone else is waiting for him to burn out a little.

The sparklers: The Big Society; sparkly things which allow individuals to take control of the delivery of public fireworks; the problem is they fizzle out a little too quickly.

The rocket: George Osborne; blazing a trail across the sky before making a massive explosion.

The dying embers: Public sector reform as salami slicing takes over.

On a more serious note, this evening when we stand there watching the fireworks, eating baked potatoes and warming ourselves on the bonfire, we’ll also be reflecting on the jobs of public sector workers suddenly at risk, on the public services that will no longer be provided and on the shift in emphasis in the way we think about the State.  Is it possible that this is more of a revolution than that attempted by Mr Fawkes?  Maybe not, but the bonfire will mean more to me this year than it has in the past.

How to reply to Out of Office

November 4, 2010

From: Localgov
Sent: 3 November 2010 11:40
To: Localgovaswell
Subject: SMT staff cascade arrangements


Thought you’d want to see these, could be useful.



From: Localgovaswell
Sent: 3 November 2010 11:42
To: Localgov
Subject: Out of Office AutoReply: SMT staff cascade arrangements


I am currently out of the office until the afternoon of Friday November 5th. During this time I will be mainly in training sessions and meetings but will have my mobile on me for emergencies.

I will deal with all e-mails upon my return.


From: Localgov
Sent: 3 November 2010 11:45
To: Localgovaswell
Subject: Out of Office AutoReply: SMT staff cascade arrangements


Gosh darn part time worker, wasting my council tax by sitting in training sessions learning lord only knows what about some random and unuseful thing such as health and safety so you you can stop me walking the streets of my own free will or having a picnic on a nice grass verge for fear of a sprinkler going off and my clothes getting wet so I sue you and the rest of your forsaken kind for £1m plus emotional damages, it’s political correctness gone mad I tell you and before long I won’t be able to tuck my kids in to bed at night without being accused of beating them and seeing the Child Protection ninjas swooping in to arrest me and lock me in a local version of Guantanamo Bay, well I won’t have it, do you hear me, I’m going to stand up for my rights as a citizen of this proud country and find out exactly how to demand that I be treated as the upstanding human being that I am.

Is there a training course for that?


Channel 4 show us the way

November 3, 2010


Channel 4: Seeing things that aren't there?


Last night I was contemplating enjoying the final of Masterchef when my remote control happened upon Channel 4 news. The trail from the newsroom told me that if we could just hang on until 7:35 (way past Masterchef time) the intrepid news team would reveal true scale of local authority spending.

For those who missed the revelations (you didn’t miss much) you can see the full story here.

I’m not one to paraphrase too much but the basic tenet of the report was that:

1) Staff in local authorities are sick a lot

2) Some councils have tried to address the problems they have with sickness by offering prizes, incentives etc to reward those staff that have 100% attendance rates.

3) Making staff redundant entails making redundancy payments which can cost a lot of money

And sad to say that was it.

I have numerous problems with Channel 4’s ‘exposé’ and I shall try to be as brief as I can so that this post doesn’t become too ranty. So, in order of the most ridiculous: