Posted tagged ‘what the?!’

Quaint, or obsolete?

November 23, 2011

Do some things have no place in a modern Local Government Office?

Yesterday a piece of paper appeared on my desk.  It had been folded into three sections, and then placed inside another, larger piece of thicker paper which had been specially folded and glued together to hold this first piece of paper, before being sealed with a gluey gum.  My name and address had been put on the front.

Apparently, this is called an ‘envelope’, and inside it was a ‘letter’.

Somewhat confused (I thought an envelope was the amount of cash that a service had available to it and a letter was any of the squiggles printed on my keyboard), I opened it and read the contents.  Imagine my surprise to find that it was an invitation to a meeting taking place just a few hours later that day.  I already had the meeting invite in my Outlook calendar, had e-mails discussing the agenda items and knew where and when it was, but the letter was sent nonetheless.

It was a little strange to think that one day, not that long ago in the grand scheme of things, this was perhaps the way these things were done.  These days written invitations like this have little place in the modern office, even if it did for a few seconds make the meeting – and by extension my involvement in it –  more important than it actually was.  And it got me thinking about some of the other things that still appear from time to time which really should have been put out to pasture many years ago.  Here are a few.

The Fax Machine

Before the days of scanners and e-mail, the only way to get handwritten comments, signatures or even basic information from one place to another almost instantly was to send a fax, and the remnants of this time can be found on most local government officer’s e-mail signature.  Many of us still persist in putting the office fax number at the bottom of our messages despite not knowing where said fax machine actually is, nor how to use one.

Some teams still insist on faxes being sent when a signature is required for approval.  Even without getting technical with all of the many other options available, most photocopiers these days also double up as scanners.  A quick scan, or even a photo of a document on a smart phone, does at least as good a job as a fax machine and has the added benefit of actually being able to be used by officers without waiting for the tell-tale schreeching so reminiscent of the iconic Commodore 64.

White Board Team Rosters

Once upon a time, this was a really good idea.  A simple whiteboard was displayed which laid out the names of your team, and then you simply filled in the space next to your name to say where you were and when you would be in the office.  In fact, it was such a good idea that Microsoft and other software manufacturers developed tools like Outlook and shared calendars, allowing you to fill out your daily comings and goings as required as well as seeing those of your colleagues.

Not only does this have the added side benefit of removing the need for dog-eared paper diaries (although these will persist for some time yet), it also takes away another process to be done every day, and assuming you keep your diary up to date has the bonus of always being accurate.

Admittedly, it is harder to draw phallic pictures on your Outlook calendar.

Secretary/Typing Pools

Finding a new corridor in the Town Hall recently (well, new to me anyway) I noticed a room with a handful of desks and staff tapping away at keyboards, each with a piece of paper stuck to a clipboard stuck to the side of their monitors.  Upon inquiry I found out that this team of people were our administration pool, who essentially spent their days typing up notes from senior managers into e-mails or documents.

I understand the need for adminstrators; indeed, in my m,ind they are some of the most important people in any office, and are fonts of knowledge and contacts who can turn whimsical ideas of others into reality.  So using their time to type, a skill which should be literally at the fingertips of any self respecting manager, is perhaps not getting best value from them.  When typewriters were the norm there was a place; these days it is probably quicker to type yourself than to handwrite, pass over, have them type, read it, make some changes, let them retype it, read it again and then forward it on.  Stop being lazy.

Hand Drawn Paper Maps

A while ago I did some work with our parks and open spaces team, looking at revamping some of the borough’s parks.  This involved getting a lot of information from the public and then using it to create some potential plans to take back out to people who used that space.  Imagine my surprise when I found out that these maps are hand drawn using easels, pencils, rulers and protractors, before being coloured in by hand using wax crayons.

Perhaps I’m being a little harsh, but surely the same thing produced using a computer system would be better?  Repeating elements such as trees and bushes would then be simply cut and pasted rather than repeatedly hand drawn, clouring in would take a couple of clicks of the paint bucket, and perhaps the data could even be uploaded onto a GIS map.

Don’t get me wrong – I actually love a good map and appreciate a draughtsman’s skill, but in these days of computer aided design it was a shock to see these things still done by hand.


As ever, we’d love to hear about anything you see in your office which just seems a little, well, 20th Century.  Via Twitter (@welovelocalgov) or the comments boxes below, you know where we are.

Welovelocalgovernment is a blog written by UK local government officers. If you have a piece you’d like to submit or any comments you’d like to make please drop us a line

The hidden perils of tea making

November 17, 2011

You might have to read this one twice...

Some e-mails sent around an organisation are pretty important, sharing vital information about policy changes, procedural issues or internal news to be shared.  Some are more practical, detailing things to be aware of, or less important goings on in the council

Then some are simply madder than a snakes armpit.

When this glorious missive was forwarded on to us by three different members of the WLLG press pack we knew it was worth sharing more widely, so here it is in all its anonymised glory.

After receiving your report/photographs of an incident where a colleague fell down some stairs whilst heavily ‘loaded’ with a tray filled with various items of crockery, as Chair of the H&S Committee I took the following steps:

  1. requested confirmation on whether H&S were investigating
  2. requested details of usual practice in conveying cups/drinks/etc
  3. visited the site of the incident to personally inspect all stairways and steps (internal) (more…)

You want me to do what?!

June 10, 2011

Surely typing is a little more legible?Yep, you guessed it – it’s another guest post which has been sent in to us, and trust us when we say it’s a doosie!  If you have your own amusing anecdote or serious point to make about local government or life within it you can send it to us at – especially if it’s anything like this…

A few weeks ago my service head asked me to put together a Powerpoint presentation which covered everything that’s gone on in the department over the last year: our achievements, savings programmes, what projects we’re leading on, what is going to happen next year, and so on. Of course, this request came in at the last-minute – why would I need any time to research it properly and speak to the many people I needed information from? But that isn’t where the fun begins.

Nor does it begin when her only comments on the first draft I sent through read ‘more positive survey results info please’ (pretty much those exact words), or even when she actually did give me proper feedback and it consisted mainly of requests for information that she knew full well didn’t exist.

No, the fun really began when I showed her the final draft the day before the presentation, and was told ‘this is great, but what I want is for the notes to be hand-written’. (more…)

P8ssw0rd m@dn355

March 7, 2011

Can't things be linked up a bit better?

As a child my mother used to tell me that if my head hadn’t been attached to my body, I would have forgotten it most of the time.  As I’ve grown older my memory has not improved one jot; I still regularly forget things to add to the shopping list, dates and events as well as forgetting to take the rubbish out.

Our ICT department do not appear to be sympathetic to my plight however.  Recently a brand new layer or two of ‘security’ has been forced upon us.  There was nothing demanding that this happen, but some ICT people decided that it could be done, therefore it should be, and to hell with the consequences and impact it has on the rest of the staff.

Let me take you through a typical log-in routine.  After switching on a PC I have to input my username and password.  This password is forced to change every 30 days, and follows these rules:

  • Can’t be a password that’s been one of your last 24 versions
  • Must contain upper case
  • Must contain lower case
  • Must contain a special character (i.e. non-letter)
  • Must contain a number

I then get taken to my profile, and have to log in to each of the shared drives I want access to.  Each of these has a different username and password.  Should I need to update our website (part of my normal role) I’ll need another username and password for each one.  I also have to log on to my phone line, requiring yet another password. (more…)

I agree with Eric

February 28, 2011

I'm as shocked as you are

Hold onto your seats and don’t adjust your screens, I am about to say words I didn’t ever expect to say.

I agree with Eric Pickles.

Not generally of course, but recently he has decided to attack local government in a new (and seemingly random as ever) way, this time under the mantle of transparency and openness.  Yes, the Pickleator has written to local government and told them that bloggers should have the same rights as the accredited press.

So that I don’t misquote him, here is the message he sent out:

Fifty years ago, Margaret Thatcher changed the law to make councils open their meetings to the press and public. This principle of openness needs to be updated for the 21st Century. More and more local news comes from bloggers or citizen journalists telling us what is happening at their local council.  Many councils are internet-savvy and stream meetings online, but some don’t seem to have caught up with the times and are refusing to let bloggers or hyper-local news sites in. With local authorities in the process of setting next year’s budget this is more important than ever. (more…)

Some things might not be important

January 20, 2011

But they are really annoying

There are an awful lot of very big issues facing local government at the moment which have been blogged about by ourselves and by many others far smarter and more linked in than we are.  There are also major issues facing individuals within services and teams which will affect their lives and future.

That being said, sometimes it’s the little things that count.  Issues that perhaps might have been looked over in the past seem to be far more annoying now, and I find my degree of ire rising along with an emergence of a hitherto undiscovered rant gene within me.

So, in the form of a short list and in an effort to get them out of my system, here are five things that are annoying me at the moment.  All are trivial, all are insignificant in the grand scheme of things; all are making me want to go a bit Samuel L Jackson and start smiting wantonly. (more…)

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”.


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


e-low, e-low, e-low

October 26, 2010



Just don't e-mail us about anything...


For most people, contacting the police is a simple thing.  If you have an emergency it’s 999, if not you ring your local police station and leave a message which then gets deleted.  Simples.

Not so if you work for local government.  Today I got an e-mail from our ICT team telling me that my special e-mail account will be set up soon.  Upon further investigation I discovered that this was a special e-mail account specifically to talk to the Met police.

Apparently colleagues have been having all of their e-mails to their police based counterparts blocked because – wait for it – they get sent via the internet.  This means they are not secure, and that only those sent through a special type of e-mail account will get through to them.

So; if I want to e-mail anyone else in the world I simply fire up Outlook, write an e-mail and send it.  If, however, I want to e-mail the Met police I have to close down Outlook, log off that entire profile (closing down everything else I’m working on at the time), log on under a new, ‘special’ profile, fire up Outlook again, write it and send it.  Unless I get an instant response I’ll then have to close it all down again, load up my normal profile, get back to work for a bit and repeat the procedure later on to see if I’ve got a reply.

Am I alone in thinking this is ridiculous? (more…)

20/10 Vision

October 19, 2010

Can we really look to the future when most of us are more short sighted?

I sat down at my keyboard today and very quickly became confused.  Nothing to do with the constant switch between Firefox or IE8 (which I use at home and everywhere else) and IE6 (which I am still forced to use at work despite it being nine years old); no, this confusion was down to the content of this post.

Part of me wanted to write about a couple of interesting little things which have happened around the office; the return of a significant colleague to the team after a secondment, the development of a very interesting programme here, a crazy conversation overheard in the toilets involving a gun (I kid you not).

Another part of me wanted to comment on the major, major changes that will be happening in just a few days, thanks to the Comprehensive Spending Review.  Or perhaps about the ‘bonfire of the quangos’, which to all intents and purposes is less of a bonfire and more of a spreading of the ashes.

Then I realised that this confusion is actually symptomatic of local government at the minute.  We are being encouraged to keep focussed on the little things and keep working hard, whilst being aware of (but ignoring to some extent) the fact that 20,000 quango staff and Osbourne only knows how many colleagues will potentially be out of work. (more…)