Friday, 15 January 2010

Snow more

Politicians don't usually get me really annoyed - I did after all try to become one. But a comment from one of the leaders of our Council in yesterday's local paper made me angry. I haven't talked much about our local Council, in case people feel its just sour grapes. But it has been a dreadful performance since the start, mainly because the Lib-Dem adminstration was slow to get a grip on finances and then was captured by Council officials. I know they had a difficult job, having been left with a Council in a shocking state and a reorganisation no-one wanted. But still.

Anyway: the annoyance. The local Tory leader was having a go at the Council for not getting to grips with the bad weather, specifically by having an "emergency" meeting about it three weeks into the bad weather rather than sooner. He also noted that a pretty poor job had been done of clearing the snow (to me, that's obvious unless you live in places like Cramlington, where Alan Armstrong the relevant Lib-Dem Councillor is from, or Morpeth, where the Council offices are). In reply Armstrong implied the Tories were dismissing the "hard work of our dedicated staff".

That is such a typical politicians trick: pretend any criticism is of front line staff doing their best, rather than of the leadership who have failed to give them proper resources or direction. Its a trick used against the Conservatives all the time when they are trying to make the public sector work better. Such criticisms aren't of front line staff; they are of political leadership. This was a small example but having suffered from such poor road clearance at home, it was very relevant.

Also on the subject of snow, there was an interesting article in the London Evening Standard about the disruptive unintended consequences of Government action, especially when it is taken for publicity purposes.

Its particularly annoying given the Governments action regarding farmers trying to help people; in many parts of rural Britain we had to rely on the goodwill of local farmers to keep the roads clear and to get deliveries through. The former in particular meant they used farm vehicles.

Many farm vehicles are not registered for road use and can use cheaper red diesel as a result. A joined up Government, recognising that there were serious problems with road clearance and maintenance, would have encouraged farmers to help by stating that they could temporarily use such vehicles on the road. A useless Government would have done nothing. A vindictive Government, not caring about the public (especially the rural public) would have sent out reminders from HMRC to farmers not to use such vehicles on the road.

Guess which ours did?

Actually, I suspect it was not even vindictive because it wouldn't have been planned. It was a result of 12 years of a Government generating an attitude within public service that the public don't matter.

(I am aware that posting this as a result of a bit of inconvenient snow may be callous given the dreadful problems in Haiti. But the truth is there's nothing I can say about Haiti. I can comment on this .)

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I think it is fantastic to see communities out there, helping each other when the occasion arises. It shows people exactly what government does, how effective politics is. The more independant the community becomes, the harder-working these governing organisations will have to be. Still waiting to see a party member who wielded a shovel.
Do you need a meeting to discuss bad weather? Here, a company was contracted by the council to keep roads clear and then volunteers dug out the cars. I saw only a breakdown in communication where a council snow plough came through the village while the roads were being cleared.
I gather that in more northerly countries, folk aren't frightened to get out and clear the paths- and pay their taxes, too...