Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Non-Learning Organisation

No need to worry about any of that if you're tax-funded

More same old same old this week:

Sieve Security

Two new security fiascos:
  • "A MEMORY stick that could allow hackers to access the personal details of 12m people on a government website has been found in a pub car park. The work and pensions department was last night forced to shut the affected Government Gateway site and begin an emergency inquiry".
  • James Purnell - the man in charge of the self-same DWP - has himself left confidential correspondence on a train

The non-learning organisation learns nothing from its monstrous string of previous failures. It presses ahead with huge new data-centralisation projects, making us ever-more vulnerable to its world-class bungling.

Parrot Droppings

As regular readers will know, our public sector bureaucrats have developed an unhealthy fixation with parrot droppings. In the past it's been compensation payments to silence angry no-win no-fee African grey parrots who were complaining about noise. Now, it's a £116 grand legal case mounted by Weymouth and Portland Borough Council. They were seeking an injunction to silence three noisy parrots by the names of Shilo, Ozzie and Jengko. No, it's true.

Fortunately the judge has thrown this ridiculous case out, but not before it cost local Council Taxpayers tens of thousands in preparation.

The Major has written to all councils offering a more direct and far cheaper option for the future.

Runaway Nukes

The Simple Shopper has a dire record of exposing taxpayers to the full financial risks of nuclear decommissioning while any nuke profits go elsewhere (eg see this blog on the multi-billion taxpayer bail-out of British Energy). But the SS never learns, and now he's done it again (HTP JW):

"Taxpayers have been left with unlimited liability amounting to billions of pounds should there be a repeat of a nuclear accident at Sellafield under a deal signed with a US-led consortium which takes over the decommissioning of the waste facility from November 24. The indemnity even covers accidents and leaks that are the consortium's fault.

Former energy minister, Malcolm Wicks... rushed the deal through parliament just before the summer recess. There was no ministerial statement, no document detailing the proposals placed in the House of Commons library and no opportunity for MPs to raise questions.

He used emergency procedures claiming that the consortium, made up of the American company URS Washington, French firm Areva and the UK company Amec, had threatened to walk away unless Britain waived its rights to charge companies the first £140m for the costs of any accident. The contract is worth £6.5bn over five years and could be renewed for a further 12 years. The minister said the deal had to be completed by the beginning of October before parliament reconvened."

Our hopeless rulers have been bounced again.

Schizo Policy Making

Last week we blogged the wild hippie "policy" for an 80% cut our carbon emissions by 2050. But also last week we learned that Gordo is to give the go-ahead for Heathrow's third runway "within weeks" (HTP John B).

It's yet another example of schizo policy making: costly, usually ill-considered, lurches from the soft-focus fantasyworld of PC "aspirations", back to the harsh world of real life (cf long-delayed go-ahead for new nukes, and the long overdue rethink on mass immigration). Why can't our politicos just learn to deal with real policy choices like... well... like grown-ups?

Sorry. Stupid suggestion.

IT Disasters

We've blogged so many public sector IT disasters, we've lost count. And the will to live.

Some of worst are at HMRC, which is currently struggling with over 250 separate "major" computer systems, and up to 850 separate systems overall (eg see this blog). Delays and errors are inevitable, and the consequences land straight back onto helpless taxpayers.

Now a regular BOM correspondent in the soliciting business draws attention to a breakdown in HMRC's new online "service" for issuing Stamp Duty Land Transaction Certificates in connection with house purchases. Despite the slump in the number of property transactions, the system just can't cope. He says:

"Solicitors and conveyancers have been "encouraged" to file the HMRC return on line. When we filed by post they were taking 6-8 weeks post completion in order to issue the Certificate - no doubt due to staff shortages caused by the run-down of staff numbers prior to going on-line."

So the old manual system has been run down before ensuring that the new online system actually works. Sound familiar at all? Not to the non-learning organisation it doesn't.

Breaking Camel Backs

We've blogged the £1 trillion plus bill for unfunded public sector final salary pensions many times. The non-learning organisation is fully aware of the problem, but as we know, nothing has ever been done.

Now, the taxpaying camel is facing a recessionary drought, and the poor beast is starting to buckle:

"Public sector pensions... are worth more than 15 times those of private sector workers.

The average public sector worker will be entitled to a pension worth £17,091 a year, according to data compiled by Ros Altmann, a former adviser to Tony Blair. By contrast, the average private sector pension annuity last year paid £1,086.

Richard Lambert, director-general of the CBI, said: “A lot of businesses have made painful decisions to reduce the benefits of their pension schemes in recent years. They feel resentful that the public sector has not grasped the nettle. It is clear the private sector has found final salary pensions schemes are now unsustainable, so for the public sector to breeze ahead having made only very modest changes to their pension arrangement seems to be unjustified.”

Just one thing: if he's going to get through to a non-learner as dense as this one, Lambert needs to rephrase his argument in Brand/Ross BBCspeak. It's the only language these arrogant clowns understand.

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