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Trials of modern life, part 5

It’s a traffic jam when you’re already late
It’s a no-smoking sign on your cigarette break
It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife

We’ve all been there. Sitting in a traffic jam caused by roadworks, only to get through them and find that absolutely jack-you-know-what work is actually being done.

Well now the Department of Transport in talking about doing something. You’ll notice I say “talking about doing something” rather than actually “doing something” but that’s experience triumphing over hope.

Under DoT proposals, councils and utility companies would be fined for needlessly inconveniencing drivers by leaving roadworks in place over weekends when no-one is working on them. Penalties could also be handed out to those who leave temporary traffic lights in place after work has finished.

Well l that all sounds like a plan. Of course it’s one that probably won’t make a bit of difference. The people who’ll have to actually pay the fines and deal with the subsequent hit on the budgets aren’t the ones who’ll actually be managing the work. And the last thing that cash-strapped local councils need is a fine because the maintenance contractors that won the lowest-cost tender process haven’t budgeted for weekend working.

To my mind, too many things go wrong because of this obsession for centralised services procurement. It’s all very well for the finance director to feel all warm and glowing because they’ve shaved thousands off the services budget if the people on the receiving end of those services are unhappy. Or the people providing them aren’t paid enough to care or given the right information so they can do the job properly.

A large insurance company may well feel entitled to be jolly pleased with itself because the property services company it engaged to manage householder claims is so much cheaper than the last lot.

However, the 83yr old who’s had a 10ft trench left in her kitchen since October with nothing but a plank to stop her falling in and breaking her ankle, is probably less than pleased.

If an insurance company can’t calm down enough (yes, there’s a clue) to sort their rubbish communication with their suppliers, what hope has a local council with all its layers and layers of bureaucracy of getting the traffic lights on the A249 moved before the weekend?

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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