George Monbiot has dug into another farcical bureaucratic situation – the Sheffield Tree Felling programme. How the nonsense has arisen and how it’s being perpetuated boils down to naïve private service contracts cloaked in convenient confidentiality. Amey is the contractor here, rigidly sticking to its foresight-lacking Sheffield highway maintenance contract.
Public sector roles involving significant procurement responsibility often seem to be occupied by under-qualified individuals who sign-off massive private contracts without the savvy exhibited by the corporate lawyers negotiating with them. The construction of the Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood is just one example where the agreed cost was exceeded many times over—it was simply unrealistic, as was the original specification, but the procurers were apparently compelled to accept the cheapest—and yet the contract seemingly couldn’t be escaped.
Trying to be constructive(!), is there a way to influence Amey? A campaign to raise awareness of its unacceptable—if ‘legal’—behaviour and thereby impact its reputation and business prospects? It can hide behind unethical legal instruments, as Sheffield Council can hide behind multiple obfuscatory and conflicting political imperatives – although utter respect to Alison Teal, the Green Councillor, for standing in defiance.
How can we avoid citizen cynicism and political systemic short-termism preventing the public sector from learning anything from yet another episode of mismanagement? I suppose painfully stretched councils aren’t giving top priority to capturing learned lessons and good practice, let alone sharing it. But it’s our money that keeps being blown on poor service from mercenaries.
And what if we recognised the trees’ rights?