Perspective: The Iron Angle: Have You Heard the One about the Noticeboard and the Bin?; Local Government under Scrutiny with a Slant

The Birmingham Post (England), December 13, 2003 | Go to article overview

Perspective: The Iron Angle: Have You Heard the One about the Noticeboard and the Bin?; Local Government under Scrutiny with a Slant


Byline: Paul Dale

An

amusing tale from the 'you couldn't make it up' school of local government.

Residents in Northfield wanted to use some of their Neighbourhood Renewal Fund money to pay for a noticeboard and rubbish bin.

So they asked Birmingham City Council for an estimate, assuming that a reasonable-sized board and smallish bin might set them back, say, pounds 500.

Oh, dear, oh, dear, you can't get the council workforce to step out of the depot for pounds 500. The actual cost of installing a noticeboard and bin was a staggering pounds 5,240.

On enquiring further, the good folk of Northfield were amazed to discover from the council's 'Infrastructure Management Unit' that they were being asked to pay twice the actual cost of the board and bin.

The explanation, according to infrastructure management supremo Tariq Mahmud, is that the council requires residents associations to provide sufficient money to cover the cost of replacing equipment when it is vandalised.

In other words, if you want a bin and a boardyou have to pay for replacement items at the same time.

They're having a laugh, aren't they? Birmingham City Council's well-documented problems with new technology seem to go on and on.

Although the local authority spends millions of pounds on computers, it appears incapable of mastering even the simplest system.

The Labour group's e-mail, for example, has been rendered almost useless by the inclusion of addresses that are more than two years old. This means that e-mails sent en-bloc to all 'Labour group' members also wing their way to Ray Holtom and Tariq Khan, both of whom jumped ship to join the Liberal Democrats.

A council nerd source reports that hapless Labour members know their confidential notes are being e-mailed to the Lib Dems, but can't work out how to put things right.

And in an extraordinary twist, the e-mail system appears in danger of overheating and possible collapse under the strain of two John Hemmings. …

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