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Hitting the Target

Libby Purves is possessed by the spirit of John Brignell:

Government targets do not invigorate public bodies: rather they alarm and distort. Watch how many schools push easy GCSE subjects and teach to the test, drilling SAT pupils to serve the school’s credit, not young minds. Witness the impossibility of booking a GP appointment next week because of the two-day rule, or the way some hospitals employ clerical staff to cancel operations at just under 48 hours notice (because then they don’t count). Witness the fiasco of GPs’ pay, which needed a moderate hike but which instead was absurdly inflated by the decision to pay them extra for hitting targets on record-keeping and nagging fat people, which most were doing anyway. What matters is what works? Nobody looked closely to see how GPs worked; as with education reforms, what matters in Blairism is a fussy ideology of micro-management from the centre by target and tickbox.

All this disappointment resurfaced with one telling detail of the fiasco over foreign prisoners. Several newspapers quote a Home Office immigration insider saying that over two years ago there was an informal instruction about foreign convicts. After Mr Blair’s undeliverable top-of-the-head promise in a BBC interview that he would cut asylum applications by half in seven months, Mr Blunkett told his officials to make it so. Hence immigration officers were ordered to cancel their regular visits to prisons to monitor the release of foreigners deserving deportation. The source said “senior officials knew that most of the prisoners up for deportation would automatically claim asylum. This was one of several ‘creative’ solutions thought up to please ministers. By not addressing the issue of people coming out of prison who were likely to claim asylum, the official figures would be reduced.”

See? Target culture harming performance. This startling allegation is backed up by a letter on the same lines sent to Robert Wilson, MP, by an immigration officer last week. They are, he said, being banned from dealing with arrested immigrants unless they are already failed asylum-seekers. It’d harm the figures.,,6-2160417,00.html

Re: Hitting the Target

Measurement for the sake of measurement rather than because it is important. The only qualificaiton is that it can be easily measured and enacted with little admin.

Speed cameras are a classic example. Also bus lane cameras - wonderful for allow 17% faster journey times for empty buses at the cost of people being stuck in queue of traffic for want of using a few metres of empty tarmac in the next lane.

As for asylum seekers - there is a letter to the Daily Mail today written by a Policeman who recounts being called to arrest someone applying for something (I forget what but it would no doubt have involved handouts) using counterfeit documentation. This occurred in South London.

When called and told about the arrest the department responsible said that they had lost him 2 years before when he failed to report to a police station on Derbyshire. But they were too busy to attend and could the plice tell the man to report to the nearest Immigration Office. So he was released ...

You really could not make this up and be believed. Illegal immigranrt and failed asylum seekers left to roam the streets with official sanction but retired businessmen retrospectively accused of making the company for which they acted as an executive part of an alleged price fixing cartel can be extradited to the USA on a whim without any decent evidence being presented.

This is the real achievement of Blair's 9 years in office. Can he really be proud of it?

Re: Hitting the Target

Ah! That explains my recent spate of inactivity. I have unwittingly passed over to the other side and am acting through the medium of a Psychic journalist.

Re: Re: Hitting the Target

Ah! That explains my recent spate of inactivity. I have unwittingly passed over to the other side and am acting through the medium of a Psychic journalist.

Or perhaps you've unwittingly stumbled on a shamanistic mind-control technique. If so, refine it and set it to work on others. When Tony Blair starts confessing on live TV we'll know you're at work again. Even if he doesn't, I have hopes he will end up on trial one day. Selling honours is probably the least of it.