Bureaucrats rampant

In the absence of anything that really caught my eye over the weekend, I thought I would dig into the archives (well at least a couple of months ago) and look statements made by a couple of bureaucrats.

In the first case a woman was fined £50 for parking her Smart car at 90 degrees to the kerb. After a year long battle with Gloucestershire Council, she won her case that the ticket had been wrongly issued.

In the second, families had questioned the NHS about its decision making process for treatment for those suffering from Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

The response from the Council and the NHS involved using most of the tricks of evasion so beloved of our bureaucrats.

First they issued statements rather than presenting someone for interview. Second, those statements did not directly address the issues in dispute (in as much as I could work out what the NHS statement meant at all).

Third, this evasion takes the form of moving from the specific issue they are challenged on to a general policy comment. I understand – sometime – the argument that they cannot address specific cases.

But that does not mean they cannot address general issues (like the parking of a Smart car) raised by specific cases. Instead the Council’s Jim Daniels just made a general statement about parking policy, that added nothing to the debate.

Fourth passive tense was working overtime to ensure that no-one took responsibility for anything. Note how Jim Daniels starts by saying that “parking tickets are assessed on an individual basis.” Why couldn’t he just say: “My staff assess tickets….”

And the NHS statement contained “It was agreed…” and “it was decided.” Why not just name the senior individuals who took the decision, particularly who was chairing the meeting.

I have to admit that the NHS statement plunged new depths of obscurity. The NHS issued the statement to Radio 5 Live, whose presenters roundly mocked it.

Here are the statements

  1. Gloucestershire County Council

The County Council’s parking manager, Jim Daniels, responded? “Parking tickets are assessed on an individual basis and no one case sets a precedent for another.

“The safety of road users has to be put first, so tickets will always be issued to any vehicle when it is felt they are not parking legally or safely.”

  1. The NHS statement:

“At the last public meeting of the NHS England Board, it was agreed to create a new specialised services committee of the board and, as a consequence, to review the current governance arrangements covering this aspect of NHS England’s work.

It was decided to undertake a public consultation on the future approach of prioritising new services within specialised commissioning. This will be considered at the December NHS England Board meeting. For that reason the CPAG meeting scheduled for this week has been postponed but NHS England remains on track to make funding decisions on specialised commissioning in time for the 2015/16 commissioning round.”

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