My post Come to see how not to do it at Aristotle Lane is answered by a reader who saw a similar group of local authority types standing at the end of Aristotle Lane on a different occasion last week. Like me, he fears another round of expensive unnecessary works here.
The usual pattern is that someone complains that her little boy is due to start at the school next year and might be afraid of the possibility that he might come within yards of being run over if he ran into the road when a car was anywhere near. She is joined by that regiment of North Oxford busybodies who forever think that “something must be done”. We pay all that money in Council Tax, they say, oblivious to the fact that if less money was wasted on unnecessary road works the Council Tax might actually go down.
The highways officers of Oxfordshire County Council need little encouragement to spend money. A proposal, however, requires thought, and highways officers don’t do thinking, so they hire a consultant. Consultants’ fees rise with the size of the job, so they don’t hold back in their assessment of the risk or their recommendations as to what must be done to reduce the risk.
Highways people draw no distinction between “hazard” and “risk”, and some of them can’t spell either word. The silver bullet is money spent indiscriminately to show that they have done something. The highways councillors are weak little men, easily persuaded to agree to anything which, if not done, might one day, somehow, result in someone pointing a finger at them. It is, after all, not their money, and they can always raise more if it runs out.
On this, see the recent piece of stealth taxation in the Oxford residents’ parking permits. The Conservative County councillors bribed rural voters with the promise of free evening parking in Oxford and paid for this by imposing a tax on city residents to park outside their own homes. The consultation was a mockery of democracy in that the decision was made before the consultation was completed. An officer then either lied about the cost of the consultation at a public meeting or was too dim and too careless to get the figures right. That is what I mean when I say that Oxfordshire County Council can always raise more money if it blows its budget on unnecessary works in Aristotle Lane.
It is hard to see where they will find room for more signs and notices in Aristotle Lane. That is unlikely to stop them trying to squeeze a few more in. These gaggles of little grey men standing outside the Anchor must be the harbingers of some renewed fiddling here.