Buried under landslide of paperwork

From: John C Jackson, Long Meadows, Burley-in-Wharfedale.

TWO separate items in the national news refer to the tick- box, bean-counting, meetings and administration obsession at the expense of the real job that characterises both the Probation Service and Ofsted (Yorkshire Post, July 27). Some workers are said to spend three-quarters of their time on paperwork.

Having recently retired after more than 20 years as a junior middle manager with a West Yorkshire council, I can testify to the truthfulness of that assertion, and sympathise with employees in those and other public services.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

In 1988, I spent a mere five per cent of my working day on admin tasks. By 2010, that figure had shot up to easily 75 per cent and I was daily battling with an ever increasing amount of largely meaningless paperwork. To compensate for this, my colleagues and I became adept at cutting corners in a sensitive high-profile area that was hands-on with the public.

The advent of New Labour’s Best Value initiative in 1999 was the start of the downward spiral. Suddenly every established and proven work-related practice had to be scrutinised, justified, and continually monitored by several new layers of officialdom in central and local government.

Public service employees had no choice but to play the time-consuming game in order to validate their existence. The paper and computer-assisted audit trail shot into pole position, and took on a new imperative when that latest interloper – litigation – started to rear its ugly head on the slightest whim.

Best Value has gone through several stages of metamorphosis and is still very much alive and kicking alongside its old friends Health and Safety, Equalities and the like, fuelled as they are by a constant stream of initiatives, plans, programmes, schemes and the like from Westminster and the EU. Small wonder therefore that there is disquiet at the tick-box regime which detracts public servants from doing their real job.

Lost art of conversation

From: Joan Bentley, Lime Avenue, Todmorden.

ALLELUIA, alleluia. At last, a sensible article about the monstrosities of the 21st century – the mobile phone, the iPod, the email and whatever else. Father McNicholas (Yorkshire Post, July 23) expressed my own feelings to perfection. I too grew up when no-one had a house phone and phone boxes were only used for emergencies.

Nowadays everybody “twitters” but it’s very hard to have an intelligent conversation with anyone. You get to a point, then this mobile rings and bang goes your conversation. Further, you’re having to listen to theirs which seems like an intrusion. As for the theatre, buses, trains, planes – it is just awful. Equally awful to sit on a train and the person in the next seat gets out his computer and conversation is again balked.

So many interesting people I have met whilst travelling – but no more. Nobody says anything to their neighbours and embarrasses them by submitting them to personal communication. Thank God I’m in my 80s.

Facts and hot air

From: PH Green, Radlyn Park, West End Avenue, Harrogate.

THROUGH your letters column, I should like to sincerely congratulate the BBC and Richard Hammond for a most interesting and truthful programme (July 19) on how our planet works. I sincerely hope that this will dispel all the hysterical chat about global warming which we have had to put up with over the past years.

It has always been my belief that this world of ours is the sole generator of heat in our area of this planet. In fact, I have mentioned this before in previous correspondence. That the relatively small amount of heat generated by man-made contraptions is nothing compared with what our earth has been continuously generating on its own for absolute ages of time is far more important.

Perhaps now we will stop being pestered by those who have been pushing their “panic” of supposed global warming at us for so long and will now let us use our cars and power stations. The massive heat generated deep within our own earth is of far greater importance. I do sincerely hope so.

Let’s have more of these interesting, factual programmes and less of the man-made “frighteners”.

Less haste on high speed rail

From: Ron Jennings, Bingley.

MIGHT I suggest a little calm consideration by all concerned on the issue of high-speed rail. Our local politicians seem to be lashing themselves into a frenzy on the subject as if the well-being of the entire North is dependent on this new railway line.

We have to remember that we live in a grossly overcrowded country which inevitably creates serious overcrowding on roads, railways, town centres and so on.

Moreover, most of us have never seen any sensible presentation of the costs involved and knowing the ability of the public sector to lose control in this area one must be fearfull that the whole thing might become a financial white elephant.

Might I suggest that all these public figures put their minds to work and produce a modest pamphlet giving this sort of information in simple language before reason goes out of the window?

At the same time, a similar document should be provided showing how the existing networks might be further up-graded to give a similar effect.

Let us forget the political posturing and have instead reasoned argument with proper facts.