ROAD CLOSED – SO THERE

October 29, 2012

I used to think that only police officers had the authority to shut roads. But now it seems that any monkey in a hard hat, hi-viz jacket and a pair of workman’s breeks that displays his bottom-cleavage has the right to close the Queen’s Highway.

There was a time that roadworks had a man stationed at either end with a big lollipop that said STOP on one side and GO on the other. Okay, so one side of the road was closed from time to time, but the traffic still moved, the work was done, and there was no round-the-country detour for motorists.

Today, all you get is a crowd control barrier and a big sign that says “Road Closed”.

Having a couple of guys with stop and go signs is too much trouble. It’s easier just to shut the road. But easier for who?

Trying to get from A to B? Tough. Find another way that involves going through C, H and T to get there.

Once again, for example, the A70 in West Lothian was closed – as happens on an annual basis. It’s an arterial route used by busy people who are trying to run their businesses and get to work. And where are the diverted to? Along the narrow West Calder main street. Genius.

Just so show you how daft it all is, a few weeks ago a tiny stretch of a road in Somerset was closed, which resulted in a – get this – 47 mile detour for drivers.

I saw something similar in Fife recently, but angry drivers had simply torn down the road closed signs and tossed them into a field. (Amazingly, the workers were working on the pavement, not the road!)

What’s the betting that the roads are shut as a way of meeting Health and Safety guidelines, because cars travelling along a road pose a risk to the workers sleeping in their van. Or, sure, the guy down the hole will be safe, but the 12 blokes watching him at work might be mown down by a passing vehicle.

And, anyway, lunch breaks mean they don’t have two guys spare to work the stop and go lollipop signs.

Everywhere you go in West Lothian you’re faced with barriers and the familiar Road Closed signs – find alternate route.

It didn’t happen before. There’s no reason for it to happen now.

Drew McAdam

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IT’S ALL A LOAD OF RUBBISH

September 19, 2011

 

TWO things: car insurance and bulky rubbish uplifts by the council. You would think them unconnected, but bear with me.

There was a pile of rubbish at the side of my house and I arranged for a bulk uplift. Now, don’t get me wrong. This was hardly a mountain of junk. It wasn’t as though I expected the rubbish collectors to clear a scrapyard or anything. There was just an old bike, some ancient and rusting gardening tools, and that was about it.

But by the end of the allotted day the rubbish was still there. A call to Oor Cooncil drew a sigh from the person on the other end, and the comment “What have they come up with this time?” suggesting that this was a common occurrence.

The report uncovered the “fact” that they had come for the uplift but there were more items than I had indicated on the list (not true), and that my garden was full of dog doo-doo. (Not true – the only dog in my garden has been cremated and is resting beneath a rose bush.)

So, what about the car insurance? Well, council workers are being informed by the Big Cheeses that they are expected to obtain business insurance for their private, family vehicles because they use their cars to travel to Council meetings!

Now, I feel sure that those responsible will no doubt realise that if their workers are to purchase business insurance for their cars then they should be recompensed for their mileage, fuel and vehicle depreciation. That’s the way the real business world works, rather than Cooncil Fantasy Land. Just a thought.

And here’s another thought. Wouldn’t it be grand if Oor Cooncil concentrated their attention on doing the job for which they are paid – by us – and provided a service that works, rather than thinking up little oddities to make people’s lives more complicated?

Yes, I think so too.


ANSWER ME THIS…

June 6, 2011

Oh, goody. I just received a Notification of Works from West Lothian Council informing me that there is to be a Topographic Study in my area. Sounds painful.

Every house in the area has received the same letter. And it’s the talk of the steamie.  What, exactly, is a “Topographic Study”? According to the letter, “The purpose of a topographic study is to gather survey data about the natural and man-made features of the land, as well as its elevations”. Which, coincidentally, is word-for-word-how it’s described in Engineering Magazine.

The magazine definition goes on to explain that from this data they can prepare a three-dimensional map.

More to the point, the letter informs us that work will take four weeks, and that “It is inevitable that the above works will cause some disruption to those living in the area”. Just what we need right now – more disruption in our lives. And all so that somebody can have a map.

Now, I can only assume that this four week long surveying malarkey is going to involve a lot of workmen and specialist equipment – to prepare a map. Doesn’t sound cheap.

Is it just me who wonders if, in these times where cutbacks are being made at every level of public life and affecting everybody from the very young to the very old, careful consideration should be given to where each and every pound is spent? I have to ask myself if a survey is something I would be spending my money on if I was all but bankrupt. I don’t think so.

And is it just me who thinks that collecting data over a four week period so that a map can be produced should be pretty low on the list of priorities?

Maybe I should organise a costly survey to find out.

Drew McAdam


IF YOU TOLERATE THIS…

March 27, 2011

Surveillance cameras in West Lothian school toilets? You just know that was dreamt up by a group of beardy blokes with a lot of pens in their top pockets.

Some of the head teachers said the cameras deterred violent behaviour, vandalism and smoking, and gave the children an increased sense of security. Hang on a moment, cameras deter nothing. They simply help identify the culprit after the event – if they happened to do what they did in an area covered by the lens.

The cameras aren’t protecting your kids, it’s just identifying who did what to whom once it’s all over. And, anyway, preventing unacceptable behaviour is the job of teaching staff and prefects, not the cameras.

When I was at school there was a rota of regular patrols by everybody from the headmaster to the janitor. They didn’t just sit quaffing coffee and sticky buns in the staffroom. They did their job and would glide silently around the corridors, quadrangle and toilet areas – you never knew where or when one of them would creep up behind you. A camera can’t do that.

And as for smoking; a teacher sniffing the air would soon be alerted to the fact that somebody nearby was having a puff on a Woodbine. A camera can’t do that either.

But not to worry; the cameras will only be pointing at the sink area, right? But what right-minded thug is going to give somebody a slap there? Who wants to vandalise a tap? And what tobacco addict would use the washbasin as an ashtray? All that goes on in the cubicle area – where we are assured the cameras won’t be pointing. Yet.

The executive councillor for education said, and I quote: (the cameras) “…are popular with the majority of pupils.” Popular? Hands up all those who believe for one minute that the majority of youngsters are happy to be filmed in the toilets. Must have been an interesting, in-depth survey, that one.

But here’s the fun part. When the instigators of this lazy lunacy came up with the idea, did they not research what had happened in other schools? At Lipsom School in Plymouth the cameras were taken out following “a furious protest from parents” in which they kept their kids away from school, and hundreds of the youngsters signed a petition.

Another school in Norwich found themselves the subject of a BBC radio enquiry. Grace Academy in Birmingham ended up trying to defend their thinking on Sky News for the same thing.

Even the then education secretary was brought into the fight when parents at Westhoughton High, near Bolton, discovered the school had CCTV cameras in the toilets. What’s more, over half the members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) admit the cameras were not just used to deter antisocial behaviour, but were used to monitor students.

So, if we tolerate this, where will it all end? Well, in 2007 it was revealed that schools had fingerprinted thousands of primary school children without their parent’s consent. The Department for Children, Schools and Families ruled that schools need not obtain consent from parents should they wish to obtain and store biometric data from children. Bet you didn’t know that.

Equally worrying, not happy with CCTV in just the toilets, police were called to a school in Salford when parents discovered that children had been filmed changing into their PE kit. The police seized the film after having to negotiate with the school.

CCTV cameras in children’s toilets? Does that, in any way SOUND right to you? No, the solution is simple. Go back to the old system where the teachers get off their backsides and take regular forays around their school to keep an eye on what’s going on.

Cheaper, too, I would wager.

Drew McAdam


GOM

January 9, 2011

 

It’s always a real pleasure when readers comment on my column. And a lot of people have said some highly complimentary things over the months.

Of course, the comments are not always positive. One recent email to the editor asked if I was the original “grumpy old man”. I have to admit, several of my acquaintances and friends would knowingly nod their head to that. And one of my Christmas gifts was a coffee mug with an embossed image of “Grumpy” from the animated film “Snow White”.

Oh, Dear Lord, I’ve turned into my father! When did that happen?

I admit it. The great thing about writing a column is that it allows me to get things off my chest. But I can also help the readers and my friends to have a jolly good moan about things, too. It’s amazing how often the idea for my column comes from a friend being mistreated by some jumped-up jobsworth.

Mind you, I don’t always take a negative view. Over the past few months I’ve backed teachers, and banged on about Russia – in a positive way. I’ve praised the Post Office, and paid tribute to the guys who were gritting the road. I‘ve thanked organ donors through my column, and once I even offered an upbeat suggestion as to the Secret of Life. (You can find some of the past columns at http://www.westlothianhp.co.uk if you want to check for yourself!)

But, okay, I DO enjoy having a pop at bungling bureaucrats who cling to the attitude that: “We don’t need common sense; we have rules and regulations.” There is an old saying that the relationship between newspapers and the councils should be the same as a between a dog and a lampost. Not just councils, really, but any muddle-headed thinking by any authority, really. I like to think I’m doing my little bit.

But my New Year resolution is to be more lavish with my praise in future columns. I will try really hard to wean myself off the grumpy pills.

But if I really am turning into my father, I’m not sure how long it will last! Watch this space.

Drew McAdam


SKOOLS OOT

January 3, 2011

 

Here’s a surprise. Straight into school at 5-years of age has a negative effect on a youngster’s education. Leave it a couple of years, and they will do much better.

Sound crazy? Stick with me a while longer.

Our kids are rounded up and bundled off to school at 5-years of age when, really, they should still be with their family, learning from playing rather than instruction. Growing in confidence and self-reliance, rather than having their imaginations stripped away to fit the acceptable norm.

Now, you would think that the earlier they start the better their education, wouldn’t you? Unfortunately, statistics demonstrate the opposite. Top of the European leaderboard in terms of education are countries like Finland and Denmark, where formal education does not begin until the age of – wait for it – seven.

While our kids are being bogged down by a class curriculum, their kids are chasing butterflies, exploring their world and constructing stories with their dollies. Yet the kids left to their own devices consistently obtain higher educational results later in life.

In fact, with the exception of The Netherlands and Malta, we are the only European country jamming our little ones into a contrived learning environment at the age of five. (And sometimes even four!)

According to the Primary Review report, compulsory learning at such a tender age was introduced in 1870 and had nothing to do with learning. Rather, it was a way of combating the negative effect of inadequate and abusive Victorian parents. In other words it was about child protection, not education.

There is no question that kids gain little benefit from formal learning at such a young age. They are not designed that way.

All that would be bad enough, but when they get out of school they have homework. Lots of it… I mean REALLY lots of it. If you don’t believe me, find the parent of an 8-year old and get them to show you. It’s enough to put any kid off education for life.

I swear, some of these tots will spend more time on homework than I found necessary when my O’levels were drawing near. And let’s be honest, all this homework is only so that teachers and educationalists can tick boxes and meet arbitrary criteria set down by the grey men in grey suits. It’s certainly not about teaching the youngsters. No, it’s about paperwork and meeting standards that are based on… well, figures plucked from the air.

Kids are kids. Early and imposed learning will turn them away from the wonder of knowledge. Let them learn from amusing themselves, spending moretime with their family, and having fun – the way it’s meant to be. Let the children play, I say.

Drew McAdam


ATTENDEEISM – A NEW KIND OF HOLIDAY

December 11, 2010

Here’s a new word for you: “attendeeism”. Perhaps it is easiest to explain if you consider it the opposite of “absenteeism”.

Let me explain. During the recent bad weather the local authority took the decision to close the schools. That was their decision. Even if a teacher was willing and able to work, they couldn’t. They had, effectively, been laid off.

Clear? So why does Oor Cooncil then tell those on whom they padlocked the doors that they can either agree to make up the time, or treat the lost days as part of their annual leave? Seriously, that’s what they’re telling them!

So, even if a teacher trudged all the way to the school and then pounded on the locked door… tough. You lose a day’s holiday.

Does that seem reasonable or fair to you? No, nor to me either.

Even the LGE (Local Government Employers) website states that “By closing an office or a school or by instructing employees not to travel to work, the local authority is preventing the employee from working on that day and, as this is through no fault of their own…” Quite right.

And the TUC states that “Scrooge bosses” who… take away holidays are needlessly adding to their business woes by creating resentment amongst staff.” Doesn’t take a genius to work that out – which is why Oor Cooncil haven’t worked it out, presumably.

They go on: “Workers who have been prevented from getting to work… should not have to foot the bill for the bad weather conditions.”

Do Oor Cooncil think the teachers were on sun loungers sipping drinks at the side of a pool? No. They were not on holiday. They were digging their cars out of the snow and trying to clear streets so that if the weather eased they would have a better chance of reaching their place of work the next day. Some “holiday” that. And yet they are being penalised for a High Heid Yin decision to shut the schools.

If I was a teacher being robbed of my holidays I would be making an appointment with a solicitor. There are complicated rules surrounding lay-off clauses, including rules about statutory guarantee payments and so on, and in terms of the law and adverse publicity for their bonkers policy of attendeeism, these couldn’t-hold-down-a-real-job rulemakers wouldn’t stand a proverbial snowball’s chance…

It’s just another example of ill thought out, silly muddle-headedness by Corporate Services (yes, them again) numpties who couldn’t hold down a job in the real world.

Get a life, boys. And let the teachers have their life – and their holidays – too.

Drew McAdam