How many cats does it take to rip up red tape?

April 08, 2011 12:15 PM

David Cameron has announced a ripping up of red tape. Yesterday we saw a new website appear called The Red Tape Challenge. Less bureaucracy is a good thing and listening to people from the real world is also welcome. But previous attempts and promises to decrease regulation have not been followed through, and evidence suggests that in fact more regulations are being created than abolished. Also, earlier attempt to listen to people online – like the spending challenge website – haven’t been a resounding success. So we’ll wait to see if this idea will fare any better, hopefully one of these ideas will have a significant impact on the mount of bureaucratic tasks that hinder rather than help any real output.

The private sector – and especially small entrepreneurs – can grow and employ more people once needless layers of forms and rules are stripped out. But who will be deciding which ideas to progress with? And will there be a resolve to implement good ideas? Because the truth is that bureaucrats are in the way of abolishing bureaucratic rules. It’s difficult to see some civil servants admitting that the public think half the tasks their office undertakes are pointless, and that significant change might lead to a smaller, more efficient and less costly back office. Ideally the task will be given to optimistic, dynamic staff who will be allowed to push for change. But there was a pretty successful programme that aired in the 80’s that made a satirical comedy of these very same challenges. Times haven’t really changed.

It will be interesting to watch how this website progresses. However if the government wants to being taken seriously on reducing insignificant, costly tasks, then as well as lifting burdens imposed centrally on the private sector, they need to focus on the public sector back office too, and work out how many people are creating work for themselves and are trying to look busy.

Metro Front Cover
However, one heroic cat managed to cut some red tape this week. You might have seen this story. Five fire crews from up to 30 miles away were sent to rescue one tabby cat from a two-storey roof. I actually didn’t believe the story when I first heard about it; even when it was confirmed it still seemed like a silly mistake. It turned out to be a matter of procedure; they were complying with working at height regulations. Yes, fireman should be safe but some ladder climbing does come with the territory. This wasn’t a skyscraper, it was a two-storey house. And five fire engines from different towns and 22 firemen being sent out is clearly excessive and a waste of money and resources.

I criticised the excessive red tape, saying:

“It’s almost laughable but wasting resources is bad news for taxpayers and others who might have needed to be rescued, so it’s not funny. Of course we want firemen to be safe, but health and safety and red tape has resulted in an excessive and costly response.”

I added on ITV Anglia that surely fire chiefs should be allowed to exercise some common sense. And to their credit, they decided to act and change policy. Great. The cat is also safe too, apparently it found it’s own way down anyway. So a happy ending all round? Not quite, although Senior Fire chiefs had responded to calls for commons sense with a promise to change rules, Union bosses had a different perspective. The local chairman of the FBU agreed that sending five crews was excessive, but in a move almost as ridiculous as the initial story, he used the opportunity to say they needed more staff.

Andy Vingoe, Suffolk branch chairman of the FBU, said:

“Health and safety says that if we go up on to a roof, it brings into play our working at height procedures and safety system. If a cat is stuck on a roof there is a chance the owner could get distressed and try to rescue it themselves and we would end up having to rescue them as well. It is crazy and it’s overkill and if we are having to send five teams to an incident like that, what happens if there is a serious incident elsewhere? It strengthens our case that we need more people to make sure we have enough cover to cope with the demands of the service.”

But at least fire chiefs have reviewed their policy. Now all we need to do is get that cat on the Red Tape Challenge website. He seems pretty adept at getting rid of bureaucratic rules.David Cameron has announced a ripping up of red tape. Yesterday we saw a new website appear called The Red Tape Challenge. Less bureaucracy is a good thing and listening to people from the real world is also welcome. But previous attempts and promises to decrease regulation have not been followed through, and evidence suggests that in fact more regulations are being created than abolished. Also, earlier attempt to listen to people online – like the spending challenge website – haven’t been a resounding success. So we’ll wait to see if this idea will fare any better, hopefully one of these ideas will have a significant impact on the mount of bureaucratic tasks that hinder rather than help any real output.

The private sector – and especially small entrepreneurs – can grow and employ more people once needless layers of forms and rules are stripped out. But who will be deciding which ideas to progress with? And will there be a resolve to implement good ideas? Because the truth is that bureaucrats are in the way of abolishing bureaucratic rules. It’s difficult to see some civil servants admitting that the public think half the tasks their office undertakes are pointless, and that significant change might lead to a smaller, more efficient and less costly back office. Ideally the task will be given to optimistic, dynamic staff who will be allowed to push for change. But there was a pretty successful programme that aired in the 80’s that made a satirical comedy of these very same challenges. Times haven’t really changed.

It will be interesting to watch how this website progresses. However if the government wants to being taken seriously on reducing insignificant, costly tasks, then as well as lifting burdens imposed centrally on the private sector, they need to focus on the public sector back office too, and work out how many people are creating work for themselves and are trying to look busy.

Metro Front Cover
However, one heroic cat managed to cut some red tape this week. You might have seen this story. Five fire crews from up to 30 miles away were sent to rescue one tabby cat from a two-storey roof. I actually didn’t believe the story when I first heard about it; even when it was confirmed it still seemed like a silly mistake. It turned out to be a matter of procedure; they were complying with working at height regulations. Yes, fireman should be safe but some ladder climbing does come with the territory. This wasn’t a skyscraper, it was a two-storey house. And five fire engines from different towns and 22 firemen being sent out is clearly excessive and a waste of money and resources.

I criticised the excessive red tape, saying:

“It’s almost laughable but wasting resources is bad news for taxpayers and others who might have needed to be rescued, so it’s not funny. Of course we want firemen to be safe, but health and safety and red tape has resulted in an excessive and costly response.”

I added on ITV Anglia that surely fire chiefs should be allowed to exercise some common sense. And to their credit, they decided to act and change policy. Great. The cat is also safe too, apparently it found it’s own way down anyway. So a happy ending all round? Not quite, although Senior Fire chiefs had responded to calls for commons sense with a promise to change rules, Union bosses had a different perspective. The local chairman of the FBU agreed that sending five crews was excessive, but in a move almost as ridiculous as the initial story, he used the opportunity to say they needed more staff.

Andy Vingoe, Suffolk branch chairman of the FBU, said:

“Health and safety says that if we go up on to a roof, it brings into play our working at height procedures and safety system. If a cat is stuck on a roof there is a chance the owner could get distressed and try to rescue it themselves and we would end up having to rescue them as well. It is crazy and it’s overkill and if we are having to send five teams to an incident like that, what happens if there is a serious incident elsewhere? It strengthens our case that we need more people to make sure we have enough cover to cope with the demands of the service.”

But at least fire chiefs have reviewed their policy. Now all we need to do is get that cat on the Red Tape Challenge website. He seems pretty adept at getting rid of bureaucratic rules.

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