Saturday, 20 March 2010


Of all the hair brained cockamamie schemes that the muppet Brown has come up with, this latest one is such a cookie it had me checking my calendar to make sure that it wasn’t April 1.

Yep, this time he’s really flipped. According to The Times he is set to announce that all public services could be delivered online within four years. His intention apparently is to create a "paperless state" and save billions of pounds.

It would of course mean the loss of probably millions jobs in Jobcentres, benefit offices, passport cent
res and town halls, etc, étc, and of course in the ancillary jobs that these jobs create, shops, transport, cleaning, etc, etc.

Brown apparently intends to announce plans which, over four years, will save the country billions in staff costs, buildings, paper, stamps, telephone calls, paper clips, heating, lighting, blah, blah as the government phases out its call centres and offices.

And everyone sitting at home in their semi detached will be able to book a doctor’s appointment, claim benefits, renew a new passport, pay bills including tax, or register a car from their computer without leaving the comfort of their spare bedroom. Does
everyone have a spare bedroom?

Well that will be brilliant Gordon, because of course everyone has a pc or two or three, in their home; everyone can use it efficiently and if and when (as it invariably does) it goes wrong, everyone knows how to fix it, or at least can pay a com
puter geek to come and do it for them. (The last time I needed to get that done the call out charge was £60, but it’s probably more now.)

Everyone always has electricity to power it, and everyone will be able to replace it after 3 years when it’s out of date and running slow. Everyone can get broadband at the same speed as Downing Street and everyone of course is clever enough to whizz their way through government stuff online.

Apparently there are to be “digital gateway” offices, where people who are uncomfortable with computers can go and queue (probably for three weeks) to be given advice on applying for services online, which they will have completely forgotten by the time they get the bus home, particularly if they live in a small village miles from anywhere, or on one of the islands, or won’t be able to translate into what their particular screen says. (So they may have to get back on the bus for 2 hours to queue for another 3 weeks to clarify a point.)

The private sector is of course to be involved (well it wouldn’t be New Labour unless they were farming stuff out to their mates in private industry). Apparently it will be possible to buy car tax disc on Amazon. Maybe you’ll be able to get your pension from Tesco and your dole money from Marks and Spencer. Could someone remind me why trades unions support the Labour Party?

Mind you, just in case you thought it was only the government that was barking and living in la la land, The Times also reports that a Shadow Cabinet member has indicated that the Tories supported the plans to get government online.

Do any of our representatives live in the same country... or even the same planet as “ordinary” people? Has any of them ever been in a tower block, or lived in a remote community, or been old, or poor (silly question), or just not wanted to be bothered with computers....



  1. Well of all the hair brained schemes this takes the fruitcake. It seems that the Tories and Labour are falling over themselves with half baked crack brained schemes that we all know will come to nothing.

  2. I think it demonstrates that in their little Downing Street bunker they are as far removed from the reality of millions of people living in this country as I am from winning the lottery.

    I suppose these mad people will force this upon the Scottish Government as well, by reducing the amount of pocket money they give us to pay for these services.

    Shortly they will be suggesting we stop having doctors and get diagnoses over the net from Asda.

    They are all quite mad.

  3. Not half as mad as I am. I'm bloody furious. For one thing, in addition to all the excellent points made so far, the last thing we need to do in this country is hand over yet more power - (and sacrifice yet more of our privacy into the bargain) - to the IT geeks.

    I have first hand experience of where that leads where I work. It leads to a tyranny of the techies!

  4. Aye Denverthen, I had a few more points to make but when I looked at my word count it was 800+, so I had to trim it a bit otherwise I'd have had to break it into chapters and serialise it!

    I can imagine the frustration of filling in government forms to find that having reached page 98 the computer crashes, or pressing the send button and finding that it has disappeared to the recruitment office of The Royal Bank of Scotland, or McDonald's beef supplier.

    Or that one of the four remaining civil servants beneath the rank of having a knighthood had left it on a memory stick on the 4.30 from Paddington.

    ...... Of course as you say, the techies... in the end the government will ahve to employ about 9 million of them, and of course they will all have to be imported, because our school leavers have problems reading their own names, so they won't be any use... (Well so says Tesco, so it must be right.)

    ARGH! Get me out of here.

  5. Ye see tris, tae put ma finger oan it, it's like this. Aw' Broon, an' his sorry auld bunch can offer us, is better managerial services than the tories.

    Nae vision, nae aspiration, nae future.

  6. Nae nuthin' Sophia... bar a load ae stoor in a poke.....

    How ir you no out the nicht?

  7. All our personal information stored in one place and monitored by someone in an Indian IT centre. What could possibly go wrong ?

  8. Well Anon, I doubt it makes much difference in which country the IT centre finds itself. The British government has a record on IT equipment and it’s not a good one. They seem to invest in stuff that doesn't do the job it was commissioned to do, possibly because they try to buy on the cheap, possibly because one of their ex-cabinet ministers has been taking money to influence the government into buying it (see Sunday Times). The Passport Office and the English NHS which has spent £12 billion on something that doesn’t work, and the DWP who have a system for their new one stop benefit which no one understands, all come to mind as total failures, but I’ll bet that there are more.

    The big data protection problems have come not from an IT centre in India, but from ones in England and on one occasion in America, where a whole database on a couple of discs went missing. I think that one was English education, but I’m not sure. Everyone who gets any kind of child tax credit has, if I remember rightly had their address and NI no lost... all thanks to English IT centre. And again in England, details of Armed Forces personnel was lost.

    Then of course there are the Whitehall mandarins who routinely leave their briefcases packed with disks and sticks on the train, or in a taxi. So it seems to me we should worry about it being in England rather than India that the problems will occur. It seems to have the “record”.

    However, country of losing, and colour of skin of losers apart.... the information is, at the moment, routinely stored and lost by the UK authorities. (I doubt if there are many people now who have escaped: teachers, parents, armed services, claimants of Incapacity Benefits all come to mind as having all their details lost.)

    It is the input of the data into the computer which now seems to pose a problem.... the fact that it will be done by the individual, in his or her home, and that there won’t be any other way to do it. So, unless you are IT savvy, have a computer, have a printer, can afford paper, can get the thing to work etc, you will be.... erm stuck.

    I wonder how long it will be before Brown gets rid of doctors and has a site where you can take your own stats, type in your symptoms, and you’ll get a diagnosis, and your computer will print a prescription... or a death certificate.

  9. I'm not actually against being able to access public services online. I regularly buy my car tax from the DVLA using their website rather than going to the post-office and to expand the idea is not automatically a bad thing but I think this idea is more a trojan horse for another of Brown's wheezes.

    From the Times article:
    A unique identifier will allow citizens to apply for a place for their child at school, book a doctor’s appointment, claim benefits, get a new passport, pay council tax or register a car from their computer at home.

    Everyone already has a unique ID in the form of an National Insurance number but for an identifier to be useful, whatever the final number system which is chosen, you have to have some backend database systems in place to match that number to an identity and if you are using it for accessing multiple services online then having some record of your previous access to other related government services and some history of your previous transactions would be essential.

    It is simply another push towards carrying an ID card and creating interlinked databases with people's details on them.

    The more difficult it becomes to not have one the more likely people are to get one. If online Government services become pervasive then interaction with them becomes very difficult for refuseniks without an ID card and number.

  10. You are also forgetting that these vastly expensive computer systems that the government buy in often don't work and are inflexable or unsuitable because they are off the peg and are a classic case of a round peg in a square hole.

  11. Doug: I agree with you. I'm quite happy for this service to be available. I'm certainly not a Luddite; it is going to be the future. but it mustn't be forced on people yet. The problem of poverty and not having access to the net has to be addressed.

    What I object to firstly is the way this has been put forward. There's a competition on to see who can make the biggest savings and pay off more civil servants.

    No account whatsoever has been made of what anyone is going to do about the unemployment that will follow.

    Also their answer to the inevitable problem of people not understanding the computer systems is to set up offices where people will be shown.... I look forward to them in little villages on the island and in the highlands.

    They won't happen of course because this has been thought out for London, and other big cities.

    No one has given a second's consideration it seems to what poor people who don't have a computer will do, or old people who can't and won't learn how to use computers.

    And it's all going to happen in the next 4 years?

    But I totally agree, we'll all have to buckle down and get one of their "I know what you had for tea" identity cards.

    Although I could do a lot on the computer, I won't because my local post office is on a shooggly peg as it is... I don't want to contribute to its closing. And frankly I prefer face to face dealings with people, but I know some don't have the time.

  12. You’re right Munguin.

    They will spend billions on systems and they won’t work....

    But I’m sure that some of our “influential” has-been MPOs are already looking around for ways in which to feather their own nests by selling their influence to IT firms... (see next story).