Monday, February 06, 2006

Four £12,385 Lunches To Fix Stupidity

You may have picked up the media coverage of a report entitled The Stupid Company. According to its authors:

'Every year, 800,000 people make complaints to trading standards about 'stupid companies'. Theses [sic] companies use robotic call centres, complex systems, hard-sell marketing and often cannot get the most basic things right — including after-sales service! The stupid company is undermining UK competitiveness and damaging our economy. Our report shows how businesses can profit if they are willing to think differently, take the risk of standing out from the crowd, and put the consumer at the heart of their business.'

The report has had a lot of coverage, with the BBC particularly enthusiastic- as you might expect.

So who are these experts who can help our stupid companies improve themselves and boost profits? The Board of Tesco perhaps? Richard Branson? Bill Gates?

Er, no.

They are the National Consumer Council, a tax-funded quango that costs us £5m pa. It employs 75, and its 12 directors draw total fees of £200,000 pa. And its purpose? Its 2005 annual financial report lists its fully quantified output targets: "4 major research reports (of which presumably "Stupid Companies" is one), 7 other policy reports, 4 seminar reports, 3 new and 4 updated policy guides, 12 feature articles/key broadcast features...4 Chairman's lunches".

So. Another paper mountain. Except for the Chairman (2005 emoluments £49,540) whose objective is to eat 4 lunches (ie £12,385 per lunch).

This really is stupid, and all that pseudo-scientific quantification merely serves to cruelly highlight just how crass it is. Can you imagine any private sector entity operating like this?

Nobody's saying the NCC don't mean well- their Annual Review is full of pious platitudes about what a lot of bad stuff happens in the world. But what on earth makes them think they know how to fix any of it?

We don't need another endless supply of reports, press launches or even Chairman's lunches.

We do need to have that £5m pa back so we can decide how to spend it ourselves. And we will encourage those "stupid" companies to improve by not spending any of it with them.


PS Following comments on our Chips post, we're working on a "Britains' Most Useless Quango" award. Hopefully it will soon establish itself as the Oscar of Quangocracy. We'll keep you posted.

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