Bob Newby column: Why public servants need to pull their finger out
AS a child, growing up in suburban London in the 1950s, I was used to being woken at 6am on Thursdays as it was bin day.
The galvanised bins would clatter as they were carried along the narrow side alley leading to my back yard; muted when they were full, noisily when they were returned empty.
The bins were returned, lids replaced and the service was thorough, complete and delivered with pride.
Fast forward 60 years.
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Now our bins must be in front of our home, the contents severely regulated and if the lid on the wheelie bin is found to be raised by one centimetre, well that's it, the sky will fall if it is touched, so there it remains un-emptied!
Where to high heaven is our public servants' sense of service?
Our local authorities have lost the plot.
Here we are yet again treated to the unedifying self-deprecation of a boss of child services, trying to excuse the death of a child because a welfare officer was 'over-worked'! Poor petal. Heaven forfend if she had to make a little effort to do her job!
The problem is that public servants live in an entirely different universe to their private industry colleagues. Public servants seem capable of walking away from their responsibilities as soon as the clock ticks 5pm. Have you ever tried ringing the council offices after 4.45pm? The lights may be on, but no-one's home.
In private business, if you are over-worked, then you just work harder or longer or both until the job gets done.
If you don't, you're fired and there is a long queue of replacements standing in line waiting for the opportunity.
Put that job into public office and under-performers are protected, never sacked, just 'transferred to lighter duties' and given really important but nebulous 'outreach' jobs that defy definition and which actually mean they can sit at a desk and do nothing all day.
It's about time that our councils take a reality pill and remember why they are there and who pays their fat salaries.
I questioned Gloucestershire County Council under the Freedom of Information Act recently about planning enforcement. The answer revealed that in the last five years, the number of enforcements prosecuted was, wait for it, zero.
Of course the planning enforcement officer is worth every penny! Do I make my point?