The Slugger Awards 2008: The Jobsworth award

This final category in the awards is by way of a big thank-you to all of our regulars. Over the past month, announcing each award, we’ve been fairly draconian towards negativity, preferring to highlight the positive. While many of the commenters felt individually aggrieved that we’ve deleted a piece of well-founded criticism, five years of managing Slugger’s comments has told me that negativity can be like bindweed. If you leave it untended, it engulfs everything. So it is with relief that I am now directing you to our final category: The Jobsworth Award.Have you come across a public official – elected or otherwise – that has ducked the big question? Who has sat on their hands when common sense dictated that they should have taken responsibility in return for their salary (Fat or otherwise) ? It doesn’t have to be individuals either: It could be organisations.

We’re looking for examples of bureaucratic evasion and/or procrastination. Where an arcane procedural manoeuvre has been used to pass the buck or cover an arse. Have you seen officials scrabble around for little-known rules to justify some dereliction of the public interest?

In the local authority award category, I mentioned Hazel Blears’ conviction that local authorities have a duty to promote local democracy. It is a source of constant amazement that local government has people – at its senior levels – who quietly disagree with this.

I’d go further – every public body should be seeking to engage with the widest range of public opinion, and should be working with politicians to ensure that they have ‘the wisdom of crowds’ at their disposal.

Have you seen any half-hearted tick-box consultations? Ones that were underpublicized framing exercises designed to meet pre-ordained conclusions? Which council has done the least to involve the public in decision-making, or to help councillors to communicate with citizens more effectively?

Finally, an important note. M’learned friends agree with me that this can’t be an excuse for gloves-off slagging. Please please please ONLY nominate for this award on the basis of something that has already been published, and something on which the accused has already had a right of reply already. DO NOT use this comments box to flesh out an untried conspiracy theory. There are plenty of examples of what we are looking for already in the mainstream media, elsewhere on Slugger or on other blogs.

You will have noticed – often to your slight annoyance – that Slugger tries to be fair at all times. Again, this award is not here to help anyone to pursue long-held personal grievances. Our aims with these awards is to promote better quality governance – not to deploy cheap ‘gotchas.’

There are no shortages of ‘jobsworths’ that have been well-and-truly outed already. This award is about finding the best of them. We’re policing this thread keenly as always. It makes for a better set of awards.

  • fair_deal

    The Department of Social Development for their (mal)administration of Neighbourhood Renewal.

    DSD has been funding a range of posts under Neighbourhood Renewal. This funding was scheduled to run out on 31st August 2008. A ministerial decision was requested in October 2007 to ensure a process could be completed in good time. The Ministerial decision was not taken until March 2008.

    The announcement said all posts would be put into three categories – funding possible from DSD until march 2011, funding possible from DSD until Mar 2009 (with other departments expected thereafter) and end to funding. These categorisations were produced in June 2008.

    The application form for future funding was not available until early July (4 months after the announcement) with a deadline of the end of the 31st July (approximately 3 weeks to complete and then only 7 weeks before the funding ceased).

    However, DSD has been unable to process the applications in time for the funding ending (31/08/08). It may be a number of months before any decision is received.

    This has left groups with three choices – let the staff go and cease the work, continue to pay wages out of their reserves (even though up until recently reserves were frowned upon), for those with no reserves pay the wages completely at risk. Never mind the months of being unable to answer staff queries about the future of their jobs or user queries about the future of the work and services they avail of.

    Also for those in category 2, apart from positive sounds from the Department of Health no firm commimtments to continuation funding has been secured from the other departments despite 6 months having passed since the ministerial announcement and now almost 3 months since the categorisation. So even if DSD comes back with an answer in October it is only a short-term releief with the future still as unclear as it ever was.

    The community sector will shrink over coming years but the decision should be based on merit of the work not who can survive the administrative blockages of DSD.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Reading your intro there Mick, I thought you might have been nominating yourself! ;o)

    What about Omagh District Council for managing to alienate the families of many bomb victims so effectively by dictating how they should grieve and remember their dead?

  • joeCanuck

    I’m minded to nominate Arelene Foster.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    Dare I say, confused eds on a political blog appearing unwilling or unable to accept alternate views and describing as “negative” views that run contrary to their own?

    And “where’s your own blog?” as a retort seems like (I’ll use a slugger cliche here as, so far as I can tell, it’s obligatory) “taking the ball away” to a farcical degree. On a blog aimed at provoking political debate? Now, that is beyond Jobsworth.

    What? Well, you did ask…

    No offence etc etc

  • wild turkey

    The pool of potential candidates is immense.

    Can random selection be used as a justification for a particular choice?

    just asking.

  • Eddie

    The people at the DVA or DVLANI or whatever you call it now.
    First, they advise you to apply for your MOT at least four weeks in advance. But if you try to anticipate a big queue and apply earlier than four weeks they say you can only apply within that four week period. Then they offer you just ONE date and time within that period (anyway, that’s what happened to me) They are quite uncompromising about everything, totally inflexible. Sooner this Jobsworth is privatised the better.

  • Llamedos

    I nominate the most useless part of the 70% of the NI workforce in the public sector ie 35% should be retired or let to go by natural wastage. A block should be put on all future recruitment until the ratios are at a suitable level. This would then provide hopefully adeqately educated people to expand the private sector and remove an economic Soviet style millstone from the taxpayers’ necks, which would give us the opportunity to start to achieve economically.To this end a Conservative and Unionist party at both Stormont and Westminster would give us an individually designed financial and economic package. IE lower corporation tax and fuel duties- you wait this will be in the manifesto. No other party here could even contemplate this course of action let alone deliver it. This is what is called securing the Union.

  • Billie-Joe,

    If you think that Mick qualifies for this award, then surely it can be broadened even further to include trolls such as your good self?

    No offence, etc etc….

  • derry-ff

    Id like to nominate Derry City Council. Their flagrant disregard of the thousands of young people in the City by shafting the Shadow Council which was supposed to represent them all, and on consultation, they have to be the worst in the entire country.

  • Mick Fealty

    Come guys, we hit you with a chance to get it all off your chest and what have we’ve got? Three nominations: One for DSD; One for Derry City Council; and TWO for me!

    Come guys, you do better than that, surely? As someone once said: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world; the point is to complain about it.”

  • Lamaria

    I would like to nominate OFMDFM for their ability to not answer a question but just repeat what the question already said. For example Answered Question published 19/09/08

    Cancelled Executive Meeting

    Mr Elliott asked the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister why the meeting of the Executive, due to take place on 24 July 2008, was cancelled.

    (AQO 15/09)

    The First Minister and deputy First Minister: The Executive meeting scheduled for 24 July 2008 was cancelled because there was no agreement that this meeting should take place.

  • KD

    I would like to nominate the Environment Sammy Wilson for failing the people of Northern Ireland. He should have resigned when his department failed to find the culprit of the Sixmilewater pollution incident in the summer which killed thousands of fish and did untold damage to the local wildlife. He is not fit for purpose.

  • MIke C


    Do you have any idea what a jobsworth is?

  • Rosaleen Moore

    Newry & Mourne District Council deserves to win the JOBSWORTH AWARD.
    Even though one of its few responsibilities is provision of Recreation it is so caught up in financial figures (doesn’t show in the Rates, mind you, given that it has one of the highest rates in N.I.) it fails to provide facilities to local voluntary groups who work tirelessly with young people in the Arts unless they can pay exhorbitant charges for hire of the local Arts Centre which itself is subsequently underused.
    Another example of this are the Mooring Fees for craft that are the only users of our canal. So caught up in balancing the figures that the Council missed the point that, with the highest costs of any of the island’s waterways and minimal services, the boating fraternity are bypassing use of the oldest canal in these islands. So much for more money being spent on repairing the Lock Gates when the Jobsworth Council is discouraging any necessity for them.

  • Mick Fealty

    Nice one Rosaleen. Any more for any more?

  • Llamedos

    I nominate Kathryn Bryan for her management skills and accouting skills at Water Service

  • I think Foras na Gaeilge stands out as one of the most ineffective quangos, a linguistic blot on the landscape. It has failed to publish accounts or an annual report for the years 2004-2007 as yet and its inefficiency and bureaucratic mumbo jumbo is to be experienced to be believed.
    On top of that its only motivation seems to be to increase its staff, to avoid being decentralised but not to increase Irish language provision among those who speak it.
    The episode with Lá Nua is in my view the Foras’ worst episode. And there are some contenders, including the episode of the letter of appointment for the first chief executive being sent to the wrong person and the appointment of its current chief executive is currently the subject of a legal challenge.
    This is just a flavour of the incompetence and wrongheadedness of Foras na Gaeilge….