Thursday, 21 January 2010

19th out of 19

So, this little gem from the FT of Jan 18...

The new generation of Tory MPs due to take power after the election does not share David Cameron's professed commitment to tackling climate change, a survey being published this week suggests.

"Reducing Britain's carbon footprint" was rated as the lowest priority, out of 19 policies, by 144 Conservative candidates responding to the survey of the 240 most winnable Tory target seats. Rating each policy on a scale of one to five, where five was the most important to them personally, the candidates gave the climate change issue an average rating of 2.8, significantly below "more help for marriage" (3.6 rating) and "protecting the English countryside" (3.57 rating).

They rated "cutting red tape" as second only to tackling the budget deficit in terms of priorities, suggesting resistance to environmental regulation.

Where to begin? How stupid do we have to get, before it all goes tits up? Can we nominate the entire fracking species for an Arrhenius Award (like a Darwin Award, only for climate stupidity).

Oh, and those wonderful tables at the back of the rigorous Copenhagen Accord? The ones with the January 31st deadline. Yeah, well, screw that!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The Boiler Scrappage Scheme: a tale of bureaucratic hell

In my bimbling innocence, I have been sucked into a bizarre parallel world of quangoese cockups that could drive a woman to... oooh believe that the state is incompetent and corrupt...
Gordon B announced with much fanfare a couple of weeks ago a boiler scrappage scheme, like the car scheme, which would replace G rated boilers with A rated ones, allegedly reducing CO2 emissions by the same amount as taking 45,000 cars off the road, and - the buzzword of the moment, create British jobs! Woohoo! What can go wrong, one asks.
The answer, of course, is that one can give the job of administering this scheme to the Energy Savings Trust, a clunking bureaucracy which isn't apparently up to anything more complex than sending out a few leaflets about changing your lightbulbs. It certainly managed to screw up the solar incentive scheme a few years back. Trying to make contact with this organisation is like dealing with some little organisation with three staff and a doggie on a string - you'd never guess its budget runs into tens of millions and it gets to second dozens of staff from government departments.
The sorry saga so far is that on the 6th January, my very on-the-ball boiler installer rang my at about nine o'clock at night to tell me to apply for the scheme. I went to the EST site next morning and, as per the instructions, emailed with a 'registration of interest' which included the make of boiler being replaced, the new one etc. I heard nothing back. So on about the 12th or 13th I rang up to chase this. The very nice, if somewhat woolly and confused-sounding woman on the phone told me they'd been 'snowed under' with interest (although I managed to get through straight away on the phone - obviously a good thing but not necessarily a sign of stretched capacity). She informed me that 'Steve' (not the name she said) would get back to my email - which rather (and worryingly) implied that a single bloke was actually dealing with this landslide of email interest.
Needless to say, by Saturday 16th I've heard nothing back. I tried ringing the national number, only to find that it's only staffed Monday-Friday 9-5. So how are people in work supposed to access a) the boiler scheme and b) the wealth of energy efficiency information the EST claims to be able to bestow? Not through the online forms on the site, that's for certain. I clicked through the same series of links I'd followed on the 7th, only to find that the instructions page has changed, and there is now a link to an application form for the scrappage scheme. Wahey! I thought. Yes, there is a question as to why everyone who sent in an expression of interest couldn't have been auto-emailed to tell them that this form was now up, but never mind. Now I can just apply...
Can I buggery. I fill in the form, not one but three times. Each time it all seems to go fine, I fill in the requisite fields - some of them dropdown menus, some typed fields. I tick the necessary disclaimer boxes. I press 'submit.' And then every single field on the form sprouts a kind of burgundy-purple message saying 'Please provide some information for the above field it is a required field,' or similar. It's not my browser - I fill in online forms all the bloody time.
So, I think, I'll at least let them know their form isn't working, and maybe I'll get something back telling me when it is. Or some such vain hope. So I go to the EST's standard contact form and write a little message to this effect. I also have to fill in a bunch of fields with my name, address, phone number etc, including one of those ones where you fill in your postcode and it finds your address for you. This works successfully. But when I press 'submit' - it all goes tits up again. Despite the form identifying my postcode enough to find my address, it's refusing to admit it is actually a postcode for the purposes of submitting the form. Great.
My last salvo is to try and email my message to the generic email addresses, which appear on various EST leaflets, ads etc, mail@ and info@. Neither of these are working either. There are completely unfunded organisations campaigning for the preservation of species no-one's ever heard of with more efficient communications than this over-funded shower. Withholding tax because irresponsible governments will just spend it on nasty nuclear weapons is a fab idea. But withholding it because their quangos are completely unable to perform basic tasks feels like an even better notion at this time...

This article was originally posted here.