Some council practices can’t be swept under the carpet

So you thought that the tale of Trigger’s Broom was a piece of comic genius from the makers of Only Fools and Horses? According to ROB TAPE, it’s exactly the sort of thing which goes on in local authorities on a daily basis

The legend of Trigger's Broom lives on in local councils today

The legend of Trigger’s Broom lives on in local councils today

The council’s internal market invariably throws up some very bizarre ways of working and the most amusing comes from a former boss of mine who is simply the most amazing person I have ever met during my time in local government.

At the time in question we had our own internal warehouse where we stored essential equipment: wood, nails, bin liners, uniforms, etc. Most of the basic equipment that front line operatives would need to carry out their duties. From bin men to grass cutters; window fitters to electricians most of the gear that was needed could be obtained from these central stores.

Sadly these stores were run as business. No, ot that we sold to the general public, but rather that the manager of the stores was tasked with making money out of all the other departments who used the equipment. So every bin liner needed a team of administrators to buy it wholesale, mark it up, store it, cost it out to the department who wanted to purchase it, invoice the appropriate department for it and chase payment for it.

On one occasion my boss Simon needed a sweeping brush to do some work with his team. Down he trudged to the stores with his order form and budget code. He spent his required 10 minutes completing the paperwork at the stores and was finally handed his sweeping brush. The head in one hand and the separate handle in the other. “Can I have a full one please?” he innocently asked.

“No mate, you need to get the joiner to put it together, we just give people these.”

Fortunately, the joiner was only in the yard next door and Simon called in to ask whether he could take the two minutes required to put the two parts together in order for it to function as intended. Sadly the joiner was also part of the internal market system and insisted that Simon come back with an order form and budget code, only then could the task be undertaken and the appropriate charge levied. Simon had grown a little weary with the process but bit his tongue and went back to his office to do as he was told just to see how long it would take.

Sorry It's Not My DepartmentThree days, two order forms, two invoices, three signatures and at least five people and an estimated £100 later the fully assembled sweeping brush was ready and available for collection from the joiner’s workshop. Fortunately the broken glass that Simon wanted to be swept up had been removed by the £2.99 brush that he had bought with his own money from B&Q 10 minutes after leaving the joiners’ workshop on the first day.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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2 Responses to Some council practices can’t be swept under the carpet

  1. kindadukish says:

    Ah, the “approved contractor” syndrome of public sector organisations………………..

  2. Anyone who thinks that the way these stores are run is “being run as a business” clearly doesn’t know much about running a business.

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