Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Important News From BOM Correspondents Around Britain

BOM correspondent with fingers stuck in keyboard

Since adding an email address to the sidebar, we've been getting a steady stream of excellent leads from waste-watching correspondents right around the sceptred isle:

David H has done a jaw-dropping calculation on the £40.6m "invested" in 'Renaissance in the Regions', aimed at increasing regional museum attendance. As he points out here, each additional visitor seems to have cost us £75. He says, "I can't help thinking that simply offering people £50, perhaps in the form of taxi fares and a free slap-up meal in the museum
cafe, might not be a more cost-effective way to boost visitor numbers."

Excellent point (and excellent photos on David's blog).

Tony draws attention to the Sun's exclusive yesterday on convicts claiming Working Tax Credits:

"KILLERS and armed robbers are exploiting a benefits loophole to rake in thousands — behind bars. Lags allowed out of a jail each day to do jobs are topping up their wages by claiming Working Tax Credit.

The bonanza was blasted as a “farce” yesterday — as it emerged taxpayers are footing a bill of more than £50,000 a year. Working Tax Credit is meant to help hard-up families.

But prisoners let out to work while serving the last stretch of their sentences at Kirklevington Grange prison near Stockton-on-Tees realised they too could claim. They are eligible even though they return to cells each day and have no food, accommodation or travel costs."

Absolutely outrageous- Major Frobisher has gone completely purple. The immense complexity of Gordo's half-baked tax credit system is already costing us at least £1.2bn pa in fraud and loss, but this particular wheeze is even worse- it's entirely legal.

Tim points us to Birmingham and yet another public sector IT fiasco:

"Birmingham City Council pulled the plug on its 535,000 pounds open-source pilot after its analysis concluded that it was cheaper to upgrade to a Microsoft-based platform than proceed with open source.

The council planned to roll out Linux software and applications on 1,500 desktops in libraries across the city, but in the end went no further than a 200-desktop project. Several industry watchers have voiced their concerns about the project, particularly around the number of PCs rolled out. Birmingham's expenditure averaged over 2,500 pounds per PC.

"That's ridiculous," said Eddie Bleasdale, the owner of open-source consultancy NetProject and an early participant in the project. "It's an unbelievable cock-up... They decided to do it all themselves, without expertise in the area," he added, saying that a lack of skills in open source and secure desktops would undoubtedly have raised costs."

It's a story that sounds so horribly familar: lack of proper planning, lack of skills, and an apparent lack of understanding that the cost of the software itself is only a fraction of total implementation and running costs (cf the NHS supercomputer).

Finally, the redoubtable David Blackie gives us the latest update on the appalling British Council. David does us all a service by keeping a very close eye indeed on BC, and his latest spot is from the Yemen Times. It seems we taxpayers have just funded a painting trip to Yemen for Sir David Green, the Director General.

As Green says “Painting for me is more than a hobby. It is a part of my daily life that I can express my feelings through”. So he's wangled a BC-funded trip to Yemen to open a "new British Council exhibition, The Looking Glass. It is an exhibition of arts photographs of aspects of contemporary Muslim life in the United Kingdom and Yemen, by British and Yemeni photographers." Can't take more than twenty minutes, which will leave him plenty of time to pursue his hobby.

Which is nice. Particularly since insiders reckon he makes a habit of it.

The BC costs £0.5bn pa, including £0.2bn of direct tax funding (see this blog for more).

Many thanks to all correspondents- please keep them coming.

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