Sunday 9 January 2011


I was looking through the blogs this morning and noticed that “Calling England” has a roundup of what’s in the Sunday papers. I’d only got a few lines down and was attracted to an article in the Mail (yes, the Mail on Sunday!!!), by Richard North.

It’s a long time since I felt such empathy, and for that empathy to come from an article in the hateful Mail on Sunday is, for me, quite eye opening.

Although his article is based on England, the story is the same in Scotland. He points out, that politicians, local authority “executives”, MPs, big business, indeed almost everyone and thing that crosses your path, no longer seems to have any interest in actually serving you. Their one motto in common seems to be “Let’s make money”.

We will all have stories of how we tried to deal with a big company, or with the local council, or with government, and found ourselves knocked back and stymied at every turn because no one cares. Everything seems to be done for the benefit of the management; nothing for the customer. And the more that we are described
as customers (hospitals, where we used to be patients; jobcentres, where we used to be clients; councils where we used to be taxpayers), the less we are treated as such.

Once upon a time you could walk into a BT office and sort out service problems. Now it all has to be done by phone, which is, as I found out a few years ago when my phone line and internet service went down, rather difficult when you HAVE NO PHONE.

Eventually, of course, I contacted them on someone else’s phone, and when I pointed out the problems to the call centre person with, to me, an indecipherable northern English accent, she listened till I’d finished, ignored all I had said, and told me that I had to check some things myself. If they sent someone out there would be a £60 charge...

And if I cancelled my contract, there would also be a charge.

I understood that privatization was designed to provide us with competition which would lead to cheaper and better service. Wrong. It leads to people making more money and was designed to do such.

It’s the same with councils. Don’t try to get them to do anything for you. I’ve failed miserably. My emails are replied to with platitudes and no action. But people in management in the local council are scared of no one. It is difficult to sack anyone in the local authority, and once they are at management level almost nothing will budge them, and probably even then they will leave within with a hefty compensation package. They are compensated for being crap.

Try to get Dundee’s Director of Planning to do something about the fact that double parking in your street makes it impassable to fire engines and sometimes to ambulances. It’s his responsibility but does he give a damn? Does he hell? He’s got his OBE so he’s sorted.

They work on the basis that you aren’t “allowed” to see or talk to them face to face, and that after a while most people get fed up with sending emails or letters to no avail. As for Councillors...are they afraid of them? No. Councillors can’t do anything to them.

And these are but a few of the issues that we are having with "them". The postal office that introduced a new computer system in November (yes November), the bus company, based in Birmingham which cuts a complete service in the evening on one route and runs empty buses within minutes of each other on another, and tells you that you can easily take two buses to replace the one that they have cancelled.

It’s high time we made it clear to “authority” that it is US who are in authority and not them.

And if that means upturning a few egos and crushing them, so be it.

Do you have any stories like this? ... I bet you do.


  1. I wrote about this earlier too Tris. The DM isn't always bad you know, you've only to sort out the good stuff from the rubbish.

    But I entirely agree with you and we've all stories about councils, the lack of any influence with councillors etc.

    There's a point I missed in my post. Remember when councillors were saying if they didn't get a 'salary' then we wouldn't get 'quality' councillors to represent us? When I arrived here the councillors had far more influence than they do now. In fact those around today are only expert at lip service.

  2. All Thatcher's and her acolytes(Alex did say her economic policies were really good) fault Cameron and co hate the idea of 'Public service' hate it! hate it! hate it! he would like cap in hand tug your yer forelock! bow with outstretched hand please thank you very much sir.......Charity to replace the notion the state should help its citisens.

    Your motto should read 'Lets take money' rather than “Let’s make money”.

    Scum Cameron said keep VAT rise repeal the 50 pence tax rate ASAP.Tells you everything you need to know about Mr Spiv..........

    Osborne says we must all tighten our belts and then jets of to Klosters for a slap up expensive hols....

    And the Old Etonians see no contradictions in their actions after all people didnt really expect them to go without.......RIDICULOUS.

  3. Tris lets not mince words, the person at Dundee City Council is Mike Galloway OBE Director of City Development (which includes oddly roads and parking). Given an OBE in the New Years honours list 2007/8 for services to conservation. Clearly neither the Queen nor Gordon Brown had actually been to Dundee to see what a “great sate” it was in hitherto giving his OBEness his “honour”!

  4. I’m sure that the Mail does occasionally hit the nail on the head SR.

    Let’s just say that its brand of politics and its level of delivery are antipathetic to me. It’s a personal taste though, and all I was saying was that it surprised me greatly that I should find myself not only in agreement, but actually empathising with sentiments expressed in one of their articles. I must check that I haven’t aged 30 years and grown blue hair!!

    I suspect that in some cases the motivation to be a councillor is money. Mind, at £15,000 a year it’s not a career move for most people... or it wouldn’t have been had not Labour ruined the economy and “Toribals” made it even worse.

    The truth is that no matter how frightening the councillors are, you can’t sack a senior person in a council unless they have murdered or raped. There’s nothing new of course in this. It really was ever thus.

    People like Galloway (I see that Munguin has named and shamed him) are there for life, with a big fat pension, unfunded, and paid for by us. And they treat “ordinary” members of the public like excreta on their shoes. It’s time they taught lessons.

  5. Niko:

    Mrs Thatcher’s financial policies were actually followed by Mr Blair. For the first couple of years they made no changes at all to Major’s financial strictures. Mr Blair was a fan of Mrs Thatcher and you will doubtless remember that Mr Brown was never done having the old bag to tea at No 10, presenting her with silverware at our expense... and inviting her to lunch at his country estate, also funded by us.

    So I’ll take no lectures from you about one comment from Alex about certain features of her financial policy.

    That said, it seems that the Tories, who had portrayed themselves as no longer just for the rich...remember Dave took his tie off and allowed himself to be photographed with a coloured person, maybe he even spoke to him...were lying.

    The Liberals were supposed to take the rough edges off their nastiness, but have failed miserably, as they do in almost everything.

    It seems that the rich will do very nicely and the royal family will no longer be hindered by requests for information about their financial affairs as NO requests will be entertained, MPs may find themselves able to resume troughing (not that that was by any manner restricted to Tories...Chayter the Cheater for example, not to mention the divine Jim). The lords were always safe. So, if you’re a lord, an MP, a rich man or a member of the Windsor clan, you’re safe under the Tories. If you’re not any of these things, you gubbed!

  6. Well since you are mentioning it Munguin, yep. It’s the man who got an OBE for his erm conservation...erm efforts. Conserving what I might ask.

    Anyway, I’ll try another email, but I dare say he will fob me off by passing it to his ‘head of transport’ again. And his head of transport will do nothing, as usual.

    Head of things rarely do.

    A propos of that, considering that there is more pot hole than road in Dundee these days, and that I have now broken two springs on my car, as has my next door neighbour, I wonder if he’s trying to ‘conserve’ the roads in the pathetic state that they are in.

  7. I've just checked the emails... I beg the man's pardon, I see that he's calling himslef 'Head of Transportation', which lofty title makes me think of something out of Harry Potter.

    Let's hope that he's transported elsewhere.

  8. Munguin, you should pick up a copy of the recently released "The Silent State" by Heather Brooke. The way a local authority began to pursue a vendetta against a women who dared make a complaint against it was a particularly chilling example of the sort of thing (notorious eurosceptic) Richarch North is talking about.

  9. Forgot to leave a link; I do apologise.

  10. Thanks for the tip NB...

  11. Thanks for the link too NB. It looks excellent.

  12. Munguin:

    his OBEseness?

  13. "Their one motto in common seems to be “Let’s make money”."

    Tris, while I do indeed share your suspicion and basic mistrust of the Blatcherist economic legacy of discredited neoliberalism; it would be a mistake to conclude that the pursuit of profit is necessarily a bad thing.

    Mandelson rather hit the nail on the head when he said that people can be as filthy rich as they like PROVIDED they pay their taxes and not avoid them.

    It seems to me that the goal of making profit, provided that the person/firm behaves responsibly and pays their dues to society; is not a bad thing in itself.

    Now I understand that there were a lot of 'provided's' in that by me there; but its about drawing a line - and it would be a mistake to go from one extreme (Blatcherist neoliberalism) to another (total rejection of globalisation and capitalist profit-making).

  14. North Briton,

    It is an excellent reason for more localism; where there is a positive benefit to localising the organization and authority over certain services/provisions -- would you share my enthusiasm for the coalition localising education by liberating them in England from the dead hand of local government?

  15. If you are so much in favour of localism Dean then that needs expanded in how far up the chain that localism goes in your eyes. Or is there a line that can't be crossed?

  16. Cynical,

    Localism and liberal institutionalism are not mutually exclusive in my opinion ... so ... I don't really see any need for talk of 'dividing lines' ... its all a matter of degree frankly.

  17. Yes, of course Dean, there is nothing wrong with making a profit, but when you are providing a service, surely that should be your first concern... not to the exclusion of making a profit for obvious reasons... but it should still be your main focus.

    But from phones to tv to council services to post to hospitals to government to supermarkets everywhere you turn they are big, and they have lost personal service.

    In many cases your contact with them is by call centre, sometimes in England or Ireland or India. They know nothing about you, or the product, and they care less.

    I had to deal with my credit card company recently. My statement didn’t arrive, whether because of the bad weather, the Christmas rush or Royal mail’s brilliant idea of putting in a new system just before their very very busiest time of the year.

    I knew I owed money, and I wanted to know what, and how to pay for it in the absence of a pay in slip. No one in the Indian call centre could tell me. I could pay online (which I didn’t want to do) or I could wait till some pay-slips arrived, which would make my payment late and damage my credit rating. Tough!

    However 3 days later I was obliged to cancel my credit cards because of on-line fraud and the person in an Indian call centre said that she could take the payment over the phone.

    Did anyone know the rules? Did anyone care?

    Could I speak to the management... I don’t mean a supervisor in India, I mean a manager in the UK?


    Why not?

    Sputter splutter cough...WHAT?
    When I tried o get satisfaction from the bank with which the credit card is associated, I was told it was nothing to do with them and no they could not help me.


    Oh it’s a different branch. Nothing to do with us.

    Well... I’m saying nothing but you and I own 80% of this company.

    Shall I go elsewhere?



    Because they will be every bit as bad, and care every bit as little.

  18. I disagree, sorry, but we're not even regarded as 'customers,' we're regarded as 'consumers,' a very slight lexical difference with a huge ideological difference. The 'customer' is 'a person who purchases goods or services from another,' while a 'consumer' is 'a person or thing that consumes.'
    Where customers can be treated with some degree of civility, consumption is regarded as something animalistic, primitive and abhorent. Consumers are looked down on, regarded as so much badly-burning coal that might be filthy but keeps the fires of industry running.

    And I'm going to disagree extensively with Dean here; 'it would be a mistake to conclude that the pursuit of profit is necessarily a bad thing.' Dean seems to live in a magical, expanding world where resources increase with each birth, industrialisation has not brought us the scourge of widespread cancers and there is always enough food for everyone. The idea that the pursuit of profit is a pure and academic thing is completely ridiculous one. There isn't a glass wall ceiling between the rich and poor, seemingly, but a deep-pile carpeted one that blocks Dean's view of the poor, and muffles the screams of their children.

  19. "I don't really see any need for talk of 'dividing lines'"

    So why not localism for Scotland aka Independence?

  20. @Mr. Mxyzptlk

    "All Thatcher's and her acolytes(Alex did say her economic policies were really good)"

    That is a lie and I suspect you know that. What he said was that Scots minded her Social policies more, first and foremost

  21. Laz. That was extremely eloquent and I don't think I can top it.

    I still think that it's Ok to want to make a profit though, it's just that it shouldn’t be in "everything".

    The Tories seem to think that "private enterprise" and "profit" models are the only ones. They aren't. They may be fine for the manufacture of chocolate (although that brings in the treatment of the people who grow the cocoa beans) but it inappropriate for the planning of bus routes; the supply of water, electricity, gas, healthcare, education, law, welfare.

    Some things need to be run for the benefits of the people who use the services, with a regard to the cost but with not with profit as the only goal.

    And even within the private enterprise model, it would be nice to see some regard for what the consumer wants. In Tesco that would only occur to the management if a large number of customers/consumer gave a damn.

    The fact that Mrs McGinty can’t any longer get the kind of cheese that she wants and has been buying for 40 years, because it doesn’t sell well enough over the country or region, and has come off the stock list, isn’t service. It’s just plain profiteering. A small shop, in years gone by, would have bought in the cheese and kept it just for Mrs McGinty. It probably still would, but there are fewer and fewer of them left, because the business rates are so high that little shop keepers can’t afford to exist anymore. Tesco, incidentally, don’t care if Mrs McGinty never gets another piece of that cheese in her life.

    There’s a need for a mix. Some things are best left to private enterprise; some left to a non profit, service.

  22. Thank you Anon. I couldn't remember what he said about that.

    He certainly wasn't a fan of Mrs Thatcher in any way, and unlike Labour, he doen't seek to emulate her policies.

  23. CH. I find that for many of life's problems, the solution seems to be independence for Scotland with a friendly, neighbourly relationship with the countries and province that make up the rest of the UK.

    If Sudan can make it happen, why can't the UK?

    BTW, has the wee Labour fella apologised to Montenegro yet?

  24. Laz,

    Market forces can be a force for good, despite your heralds of woe. The very nature of competitiveness and profit pursuit is to drive up productivity (no bad thing for an economy, within reason), and to improve technology and knowledge levels within society.

    It can also act as an excellent means of rule transfer across borders, much better than the state alone could ever do.

    As with all things, it is about proportion - and it is nonsense to suggest that the pursuit of profit cannot offer the poorest anything. Last time I checked inflation was still at historic lows compared to the regular 15%+ rates before 1979, and consumer purchasing power has over the last decades remained high (even during tough recessions like the one in the late 80s and the one just been).

    As for starvation, it is markets and profit-pursuit that led in India to the adoption of the short stemmed wheat crop for example, enabling that country to DOUBLE wheat production -- thuis feeding millions who otherwise would have regularly I dont accept that profit is a bad thing necessarily ... IN PROPORTION.

    You seem to take the opposite extreme from Thatcher. It is still an extreme Laz!

  25. Re Royal Mail and computer change.

    Thats nothing!

    Royal Mail management should have brutally purged when they contemplated changing the name to Consignia (remember that?). Then brutally purged again when they actually did so at a cost of mi££ions. Then spent mi££ions more changing it back.

    Apparently some survey at the time showed Royal Mail to be amongst the most globally recognised brands. And what would a management with an asset like that do? A management we are supposed to believe are in any way competant.

  26. LOL Anon. Well, it's important to me because they appear to have lost so much of my mail including some relatively important pieces, but that aside I take your point.

    No one with a live brain cell would have wanted to ditch that name for something as mediocre as Consignia.

    The management of the company shuld have been binned long ago.

  27. Dean:

    You do know that inflation went up even farther in Thatcher's time, don't you, and that the record lows were in fact under the stewardship of 'he who may not be mentioned', but he comes from Kirkcaldy (wink wink) and is a close friend of the Dark Lord!

    Who knows, he may even BE the dark lord.

  28. Dean, you're falling into the fallacy that humyn beings are naturally inclined to compete against each other, but it's not true. There's much more evidence that suggests that people are inclined to help each other out; only bloated corporate interest which allows for executives to be cut off from those they exploit leads to competition, stratified societies and poverty. (And before you suggest that people ARE naturally competitive and not collectivist, I direct you to the results of people playing 'fuck you, buddy' and also to hunter-gatherer tribes who did NOT as popular misconception tells us kill off the disabled/poor hunters, but shared what little food they got).

    As for the short-stemmed wheat - if people needed it, it would have been planted, UNLESS it was cheaper to not produce it. In this case, supply/demand worked, but in the convoluted global system it often doesn't, with US GM crops essentially allowing for the global famine. Indeed if India's short stem wheat is the GMed, then I can only pity that poor for they've been tricked with short term results.

  29. "BTW, has the wee Labour fella apologised to Montenegro yet?"

    It can't of happened tris as it hasn't been reported on the beeb yet and they are impartial!

  30. Dean do some research on India and see that yields are falling because the soil has been exploited by the use of inorganic fertilizer reducing its natural fertility. Exploitation is short termism.

  31. I dunno CH... I wonder how many of his supporters have heard of the place...

  32. Thanks there CH, much what I expected to hear.

  33. Tris,

    That comment is rather hurtful, I am NOT some fool.

  34. What comment Dean....?

    I never called you some fool.