Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Broken Bureaucracy

After my initial freak out over the maggots earlier today (dislocated/broken joints don't faze me, but show me an insect and I'll dislocate anything/everything in my desire to flee!) I calmed down, sprayed inside the bin with Raid and phoned the council. Well, phoned the council and then left the phone on speaker phone for 15 minutes while I waited for a human.

The mention of maggots was clearly nothing new to the poor bin lady, but I managed to sort out a new wheelie bin to be delivered within 5 working days as not only were the maggots inside but a whole variety of life forms were breeding in the permanent puddle on the caved in lid. The council offer a service to assist certain groups of people with their bins, they will come and collect from the house rather than the street if you are deemed unable to move the bin yourself.

Sounds great doesn't it? I, probably very naively assumed that I would just have to let the council know my problems, and then perhaps send a copy of my DLA (disability living allowance) award to 'prove' to the council that I have a certain level of disability. Or perhaps that they could check their own records, as there is still a disabled register, although I'm personally not on it. All of course far too simple and straightforward for a country currently drowning under the weight of bureaucracy. Instead the council send out a form, which the individual fills in explaining why they need this assistance, whether that be because they are disabled, elderly, currently convalescing (a term I've not heard used elsewhere for many years) or injured temporarily. After the form is received by the council they then send out an inspector (yes really!) who judges whether or not the individual is entitled to bin help.

Think of all that money they can save by such a drawn out process! Relying on people to die or recover before getting assistance must save oooh, almost as much as a salary for a full time Bin Nazi. No wonder council tax is so high, the council are working hard on their priorities of removing help to the vulnerable by spending the money on needless inspectors.

It should beggar belief, but sadly it doesn't. This kind of shameful waste is repeated endlessly across the entire public sector. The real maggots aren't in my bin, they're far too busy being busy working for the government.


alhi said...

The government does seem to enjoy throwing money away. I have a friend who got a temporary one year post working for the civil service. She received security clearance for it and then appliedn for a permanent post with them which she got. She now has to undergo security clearance again, in spite of it being done by the same body who security cleared her a year ago! And no, she hasn't done anything illegal in the interim!


PS My PhD was in World Trade Organisation law. It started off looking at european disability law but I was too close to the topic to be sufficiently objective.

Anonymous said...

One thing I've gained from being a faceless cog in the machine is an appreciation of how difficult it is to implement things that to outsiders seem 'easy' and 'common sense'... things just don't scale up as easily as we like when we shift from doing things a the level of a few tens or hundreds of people to the scale of thousands, tens of thousands, or millions.


Anonymous said...

long but sent to my council lol

Dear Sir or Madam,

I received a white envelope through my door recently. Very tentatively I opened it. Was it a card from a long lost auntie with a nice crisp fiver inside? Nope, it was my council tax bill. Well, that's what it said at the top, but it seemed more like a begging letter. Although the more I think about it, it's not begging really is it, because you will insist I pay it or you will put me in jail whether you provide me with the services I pay for or not.

Well guess what, this year you want yet another increase and over one thousand pounds from me. One thousand pounds, that's a heck of a lot of money. By the time I have actually paid the tax and NI on it, you want nigh on more than one tenth of my income:-{

So what do I get for this exhorbitant amount?

Now let me see, my bins 17.1 million pounds. Ah yes, We have three bins now one for rubbish, one for recycleing and one for garden waste and your still bottom of the table for recyclable waste ?. Great, thanks for the garden waste been emptied once a fortnight. No really I mean it, I love flies and maggots in my bins in the summer. Somehow they set the garden off on those balmy evenings don't you think. Their melodic buzzing gives the garden a sort of rustic feel. You see on the old collection schedule we didn't get files and maggots.

I thought about this for a little while, well not long admittedly as I know that their breeding cycle is nine days and conveniently that is longer than the old bin emptying period. Were the council aware of that? Then I read your plight in the local press with interest and how those nasty men tried to frame the council and how we need to do more recycling yet you still dump tons of rubbish nearby blocking our already filthy roads in the process, but somehow I couldn't shake my doubts. The little swines will insist on this nine day breeding cycle, won't they. It's pretty inconvenient I have to say, can the council not alter the breeding cycle of the domestic fly to fit in with the new bin collection routine?

I see you're spending a couple of quid on the highways 28.9 million. The highways, you know, those rutted dirt tracks that surround our city. They fit somewhere in between the graffiti'd walls and the weeds that sprout from what was once a pavement. Talking of pavements, have you seen the pavements around Here recently? I doubt you have as I have lived near here for Forty years and even I strugggle to see them these days. The grass has encroached to such an extent that they are only half as wide as when they were originally laid, Dog crap And Takeaway food wrappers adorn every few yards or some idiot on a quad or scrambler flys past trying to maim you. I wouldn't normally worry about pavements, but some of the potholes in the roads are so bad I'm afraid my car is actually going to disappear in one shortly and I'll never find it again. I could cycle, but what with the lack of police (I'll come onto them in a minute) people keep getting stabbed or even shot. I don't want to be stabbed and die in a graffiti encrusted underpass. Sorry but I'm quite resolute about that.

Now about the police, (Told you I would get to them!)I see you want £69.57 from me for the police a ridicously rise of 5% probably to pay more pcso to wander aimlessly around. Can I just not pay that bit please? I'll expand a bit and tell you why I think you should let me off. You see I've been paying council tax for twenty three years. This year I actually needed the police as someone broke into my garage and stole my car and various tools. Do you know what, they wouldn't even come out and look at it. I mean I really was quite upset, my garage door had dents in it and everything. Some of the paint had flaked off as well, it did look in a sorry state as for the tools and car still never seen again.

As I pay for them I would have thought the least the police could have done is come out in a nice shiny panda car and go "Oh dear, you're right you know, someone did break in. Don't worry we'll try and catch them for you Sir". Sadly this was not to be. In their defence I did get a crime number and a "victim support book" which was quite nice. It was pocket sized too so I can carry it with me as a reminder. That was very thoughtful of them don't you think? Mind you, after the initial elation subsided I did some sums of my own. Let's say over the years I've paid on average £60 for the police. Now it seems to me that booklet has cost me around £1380. I think you can see why I now treasure it.

I really have started to wonder why you want so much of my hard earned money. Now you'll like this, I've had a look in the nice shiny booklet you send out with your demand (In colour too with lots of nice pretty council logos no less. I think you made a good call there, we're worth that bit extra for colour, eh?) and seen some of the numbers.

No wonder councils need to send people to prison for non payment, that's an awful lot of money you seem to get through. £27,800,000... Yes, twenty seven million pounds on recreation and tourism.Tourism to crap towns crap beaches crap shopping and little else to see maybe a new set of lights (or art ) on the river to catch even more rubbish Does that twenty seven milion pay for the newsletters you send out telling us how wonderful you are? You know the ones, the ones that go straight in the recycling bins that you rarely collect these days. For twenty seven million pounds I bloomin well want to see a dancing girl on every street corner.

101.7 million pounds on general fund Housing services, you dont have any houses you gave them all away to your friends privatisation, so should we get a cut of that income seems its us who bought and kept upkeep on them or is this for all the usless councillors and the waste of offices you have accumalated

fourteen million on contingencies. Contingencies, what are they? Is that the secret biscuit budget for your meetings? And sixty one.three million on other services. You've guessed, I'm confused again what's in that pot for me?

I know I'm going on a bit and I should really start to sum it up now, but as I'm paying you for your time I want be sure I get my moneys worth. As I see it, I'm paying you progressively more but I'm really getting a lot less. So here's an idea. Instead of sending me booklets about how rosy everything is, why not start doing something about it instead. If you were using my money wisely you wouldn't really need to tell me about everything you do as I would see it for myself, wouldn't I?

Thanks for your time, I look forward to a much thinner letter from you next year and who knows, perhaps there'll be a nice crisp fiver inside it. Actually, can you make that ten crisp fifty pound notes to make up for the financial disappointment I have suffered this year.

PS. As you spend 110.3 million on adult services am I entitled to some counselling for the financial trauma you have exposed me to?

gemmak said...

Oh FFS! :o/ It could all be so simple if they tried half as hard as they do to tie us up in bureaucracy!

transfattyacid said...

One wonbders how precisely this squares with health and safety regulations.

The bin inspector turns up, asks you to move the bin, and you end up injuring yourself - surely that would give you cause to sue the council?

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

It is awful. I love the term "bin Nazi"!

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Fiona: I know what you mean, it's like one hand doesn't even know it's connected to the other, let alone that they're supposed to work as a pair! Sigh.
That's interesting that you couldn't be objective about disability law, how long did it take you to decide upon that?

Faceless: I know, I know, you're right..as usual ;) I think that's why I favour those like Gerry Robinson who insist the only way to maintain the NHS is to put it into locally manageable chunks. There are no easy answers but I can't help but feel there is an enormous amount of savings to be made in changing the way we administer things. Any ideas?

Anon: Haha! That's a fantastic letter I love it!

GemmaK: exactly!

TFA: I wonder. Funnily enough it's a commonly used excuse by social services and particularly the occupational therapists they employ to refuse to provide vital equipment. If you claim the person is 'too disabled' to use it and might injure themselves then there is no need to provide either the equipment or alternative. Insane!!

Welshcakes: Why thank you, I rather liked it too! x

Anonymous said...

nice letter

wokingham council held a referendum not so long ago asking all the residents if they wanted

i) mega bucks spending on education
ii) lots but more than average on education
iii) as low as possible on education

there was a massive majority come the high turnout election for iii)

guess what the council did? they implemented i) anyways

some democracy we have

alhi said...

Took me about a year to realise a thesis on disabilty law wasn't for me. I was being pushed down the route of human rights but I think the term human rights is overused: disability rights is more about equality and reasonable adjustment; human rights should be kept to aspects such as the right to life and the right to be free from torture (although having to use disabled loos could be described as torture;)).
It also came down to the fact that I thought that if my examiners refuted anything I wrote verbally to me I would probably have told them where to go in the oral exam.
I'm always interested in disabled rights, particularly the rights of those people who have an invisible disability, but moreso in a practical outlay rather than writing about it.


Trixie said...

Absolute madness!

But this has just opened up my eyes further on the certain assistance you need.

Most of us take it for granted that we have the ability to clean out our own bins. (But then, maybe someone would fake it to get out of cleaning out that muck? lol)

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Anon: I'm confused, what kind of education were they asking people about? The schools etc kind or the enormous waste of money publicity about how wonderful the council are while we all know it's lies kind?

Fi: I think I'd have had the same problem as you-not being able to keep personal opinion out of it. I've been surprised more lawyers haven't seen the potential for research/publication/earnings etc in the field of disability rights, but perhaps that is yet to come?

Trix: I think some people would fake anything! I doubt many try and fraudulently obtain this service though as it's neither an obvious choice or about financial gain. As for help with bins, I need help to put the wheelie bin out for collection too-whilst I can sort of do it, the inevitable dislocations make it a bit tricky! x

Anonymous said...

Since coming here (yes, I'm not from here originally) I've always been surprised at how badly run the local councils are and how much people dislike them, yet how little is done to 'fix' it... at first I put it down to public apathy (I remember voting in my first ever council election and noting how few other people had bothered to turn up) but I suspect the way councils are organized (large, generally faceless, and with few interactions with the public) goes a long way to explaining how ineffective they seem. Every other country I've lived in has had much smaller or much more responsive local government (though not necessarily smaller council bills). We, at least, do try and respond to the publics needs... we're just incredibly slow do to our size and our need to be consistant over such a large area.

I'd be curious to hear from those whose residency in this country has been longer about how they can (or can't) influence local government...