Wednesday 7 February 2024

Blessed Authority On Target For Net Zero

A decades-old mystery surrounding the rapidly-reducing depth of the Blessed Rivers has been solved, following a surprise claim from Dr Pikeman that the Authority was meeting its target to dredge all rivers to 1.8m above high water level.

At a flooding meeting organised by local MP Duncan Doughnuts, the Blessed Chief Executive claimed not only that the silt in the Lower Bure was now comfortably above water level, but that he’d witnessed this himself, from an actual boat.

Challenged by Billy Day, who described the state of the once mighty river upstream of Yarco-mouth as “little more than a muddy ditch”, the Blessed Chief confirmed that maintenance work had been carried out as recently as 7 years ago, when annual dredging volumes were 50,000 cubic metres. “We’ve managed to get that below 30,000 this year,” he stated proudly, “and we’re on target to reach net zero by 2030”.

Visitor moorings also fall under the Net Zero Strategy and, although the Blessed Authority has historically contracted the Environment Agency to remove mooring facilities, some locations have proven surprisingly resilient. To complete the Net Zero project, the strategy calls for the Authority to fall out with at least one landowner every year, so it can save the maintenance cost and blame greedy landlords for the loss of moorings.

The third thread of the Strategy relates to removing trees which are a hazard to navigation - for which the Authority purchased the Blessed Tree Shears a few years ago at great expense, without the knowledge of the Divine Ecologist who was on holiday. “I'm pleased to say that the shears have now been banned and, as a result, we have achieved our net zero target for tree removal in the so-called navigation area 6 years early” said the Ecologist.

Taken together, the reduction in dredging, mooring provision and tree management means that tolls income can now be spent on other more important projects. However, when quizzed about the redistribution of navigation income, Puppet Chair Dick Bilson rallied around his master and accused his critics of inventing conspiracy theories and fake news to reduce the high levels of trust in the Blessed Authority.

“Increasing tolls to make up for a reduced Notional Park grant doesn’t mean that tolls are being used to make up for a reduced Notional Park grant,” he confirmed, “and anyway it’s only the price of a round of drinks.”

He did confirm, though, that the Blessed Authority is well on its way to achieving its target of Net Zero Navigation expenditure by 2030, so that it can spend the tolls on preserving the jobs of ecologists, lawyers and enforcement officers instead.

Thursday 9 March 2023

Blessed Visitor Centre Plans Revised

Controversial plans for a Notional Park Visitor Centre at Axlebridge have been dramatically downscaled following intense public opposition and a finance reality check. 

The original proposal - the winner of a free-to-enter competition for local architects - was considerably larger than the land available, and the designers forgot that 100m of plate glass windows on the river bank might be incompatible with sailing boats approaching a bridge. It was also in the flood plain - which would normally result in a planning refusal, but in this instance could be overcome by installing plug sockets 100mm higher than normal, according to Blessed Planning Officers.

In the light of the Authority’s constrained budgets, however, the plans have been scaled down - and moved to a different site, in Thorney.

The new Visitor Centre more accurately reflects the vision and aspirations of the Blessed Authority, almost filling the 1 square metre of space in a disused phone box. “All 72 panes of glass have been lovingly replaced”, enthused Dr Pikeman proudly, “and we’ve fitted a state-of-the-art wind-up audio player together with 8 colour photographs. We think youngsters will be thrilled to experience the Notional Park through this modern and exciting use of technology, and we are confident that it won’t be used as a makeshift urinal.”

Thorney Mouth is a key strategic location which until recently had 150m of free visitor moorings. Sadly, in what has becoming a repeating pattern, the Blessed Negotiation Team fell out with the land owner and the moorings were lost. A replacement floating pontoon was promised but never materialised, and it is hoped that the new visitor attraction will be a suitable substitute. 

“This is the epitome of what the Broads is all about” said Dr Pikeman, without a hint of irony. 

Thursday 2 March 2023

When is a consultation not a consultation?

Blessed Officers have been hard at work this year re-defining the meaning of the word “consultation”, in the wake of the shock decision to hike navigation tolls by an eye-watering 13%. The plan first appeared in the papers for the Blessed Navigation Committee less than a week before their meeting on 12th January, and bore all the hallmarks of a Chinese presidential election – with only a single option to consider and 4 working days to think about it. Having been assured that the discussion could be delayed until January “because of the much improved tolls collection system”, the committee didn’t have much choice but to nod along – allowing Dr Pikeman to claim that the move was “supported” by the Blessed Nav Com. 

Just one week later, their “recommendation” went before the Board for rubber stamping, with the executive stressing the importance of subsidising Notional Park functions with navigation tolls, so as to avoid having to make other difficult decisions instead.

The increase was roundly condemned by everyone, with one industry group bravely pointing out that the consultation was unlawful, because it didn't comply with the fundamental principles of legal consultations - like having time to think about it, having more than one option to consider and being consulted before the decision had been made. 

Of course, the Pocket Monitoring Officer easily got round the problem by stating that the rules of legal consultations only applied when a consultation had to be lawful. Since there was nothing to say that Blessed Consultations had to comply with the law, they couldn't be unlawful if they didn’t.

The group also reminded the ChairPuppet, Dick Bilson, that increasing tolls to subsidise Notional Park activities was illegal because the navigation account is protected by Blessed Act of Parliament - but he dismissed the claim, citing the “Blessed Understanding” with DEFRA which makes them look the other way when asked. Toll payers already contribute to Blessed overheads, he said, so it is perfectly reasonable to make them pay twice as much. “It’s only the price of a round of drinks”, he added.

Bilson went on to explain that there had, in any event, been a full and transparent consultation in the form of a dinner party workshop in October, where an above-inflation tolls increase was quite possibly mentioned. Unfortunately, no record of it exists and everyone who attended mysteriously forgot to mention it to anyone. 

Meanwhile, in completely unrelated news, DEFRA have given The Blessed Authority an additional £440,000 to support Notional Park activities, which is a remarkably similar number to the extra money raided from toll payers to pay for exactly the same thing.

However, anyone thinking that the Blessed Authority would take the opportunity of doing the sensible and ethical thing was quickly disabused of the notion by a gleeful Dr Pikeman. “Notional Park grant income is ring-fenced to pay for Notional Park purposes” he said. “It can’t be siphoned across to subsidise the navigation account’s subsidy to the Notional Park fund, oh deary me no. That would be quite unlawful.”

Tuesday 14 February 2023

Public Sector Situations Vacant

Pocket Monitoring Officer

The Blessed Authority has another temporary vacancy for an Office Monitor a Monitoring Officer, starting immediately and ending sooner than you think.

As the eighth holder of this office in as many years, your principal role will be to invent legal-sounding justifications for improper, unreasonable and unlawful actions on a daily basis, including:

  • circumventing consultation processes
  • siphoning ring-fenced funds to avoid difficult decisions
  • refusing freedom of information requests
  • redacting documents which don’t say what you said they did 

You will also be responsible for the burying, re-writing or sanitisation of “independent” reports into Blessed behaviour, following the Pikeman Principle of re-assuring members that there is nothing to see here. You will be amazed at how easily members are impressed by the words “legal opinion” and “officers are doing an excellent job under difficult circumstances”. 

Your “monitoring” duties will of course mostly involve monitoring the activities of members (usually the ones appointed by local authorities, though the occasional Secretary of State appointee has been known to go native), and you will be expected to maintain dossiers on their social media profiles and any public comments which could draw unwanted attention to the Authority’s hapless incompetence. 

This work will include a quarterly review of “constitutional documents”, enabling the rapid re-classification of activities as breaches of the code of conduct or conflicts of interest, at the personal whim of the Chairpuppet, Dick Bilson. 

But perhaps your most challenging responsibility will be the defence of the Pikeman Paradox, which allows lawful activities to be re-branded as unlawful, according to who is doing it. A giant and highly visible riverside tent can, for example, be erected for 6 years without planning consent because it is “Blessed” as a temporary structure, whilst small yurts in nature reserves or campsites are classed as permanent buildings. You will probably spend hundreds of hours researching archaic justifications for this complex principle, before realising that “because I say so” works just as well with the members. 

Salary: £20,000 - this is the figure reported to members but will be consumed in the first month. Additional hours will be sub-contracted to a third-party providing “specialist technical advice” at 5 times your hourly rate, before he becomes your successor.

Pre-requisities: broken moral compass, short-term memory of a goldfish, ability to sleep with eyes open.

As a Pocket MO, you will quickly be welcomed to the UK’s fastest growing professional association, the Blessed Authority’s Dispirited Society of Ex-Governance and Monitoring Experts (BADSEXGAME).

Please send your CV and candid photos (to ensure that you can never speak of what you learn) to poorcareermoves@the-broads-is-not-a-national-park.etc

Friday 10 May 2019

Lame Turtle “Staying To Finish Job”

The Blessed Authority this week suffered it's most high profile eviction yet, with the dismissal of Blessed Chair Temper Turtle.

Ex-copper Turtle had thought himself bullet-proof, openly supporting Dr Pikeman’s Blessed Land Grab as well as championing his Councillor-Abolition Policy. But, in a rare moment of personal insight, Turtle told Local Authority leaders that their appointees “lacked the necessary skills” to serve as Blessed Members - apparently forgetting one minor detail of his own appointment.

Taking him at his word, Turtle’s council leader sacked him due to his “lack of necessary skills”.

The dismissal completes a dismal week for the Turtle, who was on Thursday handed his arse by the voters of Phlegmburgh after they voted 1050 votes to 151 in favour of the village postman in the Yarco borough election.

“It’s a bit of a relief, to be honest” said Turtle. “I told Lord Gamekeeper a few weeks ago that Dr Pikeman was out of control and he told me it was my job to sort it out. That’s when I realised I was massively out of my depth, and engineered my own removal by supporting ridiculous policies and insulting my colleagues.”

With several other councillors also departing the Blessed Authority, however, and the unthinkable risk of Vice Chairman Dick “Round of Drinks” Bileson occupying the chair even for one meeting, Dr Pikeman has invoked statute and demanded that the hapless turtle carry on to the bitter end rather than fall on his sword.

As panic stations were declared, puppet-mistress Granny Burgess assumed control and wrote to the press, explaining that the Turtle would continue as Chair for another 3 months, despite having lost the confidence of his leader and his voters.

“He’s been a wonderful and obedient Chair” said Granny. “But he has one more job before he goes, which is to appoint my favoured candidates for Blessed Secretary of State appointments next month. So I won’t let him resign just yet.”

Meanwhile, Pikeman is preparing himself for the biggest single intake of new members in Blessed history. “It’s the first time I’ve had to do this many simultaneous assimilations” he said. “But I’m sure they’ll all be willing supplicants by the end of their training.”

Tuesday 12 March 2019

Wheels Fall Off Pikeman’s Folly

Blessed Members are this week putting the finishing touches to a code of conduct complaint against the Chief Executive, citing a number of “activities likely to cause reputational and financial harm to the Authority”, following a string of recent PR disasters.

Last week it was revealed that local authority leaders had written to the Government to complain about the Blessed Authority’s detachment from reality and refusal to play nicely with others. The leaders’ patience finally snapped when Dr Pikeman announced his fiendish plan to absorb half the county into his personal fiefdom and abolish elected members into the bargain.

Members are now reeling from the totally unexpected shock news that the Broads National Pike Visitor Centre at Axlebridge will cost twice as much as Dr Pikeman’s random guesses, due to the architects ignoring the design brief as well as national & local planning policies - and using the wrong side of the scale rule.

“In fairness, we never said that the building had to fit on the site” said Dr Pikeman from his bunker, “and I applaud the winning architects for being bold enough to look beyond traditional spatial constraints, and instead design something which ignores practical considerations and planning policies, in favour of playing to my vanity.”

“I told members last year that the costs had doubled, but since they’d never signed off the budget in the first place, they didn’t need to agree a new one” he went on.

Henna Larson, Blessed member for Birdland, pointed out that members had never actually asked for a visitor centre, or agreed to go ahead with it. But Dr Pikeman dismissed her view as “the kind of populist nonsense we’ve come to expect from these so-called elected councillors, which is why they need to go.”

“Members are kept fully informed of my increasingly narcissistic ego-trips and it’s their job to be ambassadors for them, not to ask awkward questions. Both Larson and Uncle Paul will be having their collars felt by PC Turtle for embarrassing the Blessed Authority through their failure to observe collective responsibility for decisions that haven’t been made yet.”

Dr Pikeman confirmed that the project was going ahead, despite the lack of a coherent business case or funding proposal, the escalating cost, the breach of planning policies, the practical challenges of scaffolding across the river, the loss of moorings, the navigation hazard presented by a wall of plate glass beside tacking yachts, the dangerous road junction, the lack of parking, the reluctance of the adjacent farmer to sell his land for a pittance and the complete absence of any stakeholder support whatsoever.

He did, however, acknowledge the importance of transparency in the planning process, confirming that “the Authority will follow its normal practice in determining its own planning applications, by paying a consultant to make the application on our behalf.”

“By getting someone else to make the application, our planning committee can pretend it’s nothing to do with them. I’ve already paved the way, by making sure they don’t know anything about it.” he said.

Saturday 26 January 2019

Blessed Meltdown as Evictions and Gaggings Continue

The ethnic cleansing of the Blessed Authority has moved up a notch with the dismissal of Wilky O’Brian from the navigation committee and full Authority. Despite having more experience of navigation and engineering than the rest of the Authority combined, an “independent panel” decided that this was outweighed by his apparent inability to vote in the prescribed manner.

“Wilky supported an alternative candidate to me for the Chair” said Temper Turtle, “and didn’t vote for Jimmy Day to be evicted either. So that was that.”

Unsure how to deal with the recalcitrant O’Brian for his final meetings, the Chairs Group decided to stop him from speaking on any subject where he was known to have an opinion. “That will fix him” said Dr Pikeman. “He’s got an opinion on everything!”

And so, in a spectacular misrepresentation of the law of predetermination, Wilky was gagged during an already controversial debate on the display of vessel registration numbers, unable to intervene as the debate descended into disarray and confusion.

For years, some boats have been excused from putting numbers on their transom, as long as they have them on the bow or bowsprit alongside the tolls plaque. But with the plaqueless tolls system judged a success, blessed officers say that it’s now too difficult for rangers to identify yachts that don’t have numbers on the back.

“In the old days, rangers would just walk up to the front and look at the plaque” they explained. “But without the plaque, they have to, err, walk up to the front and look at the numbers instead.”

The Blessed Spokesperson went on to claim that rangers couldn’t identify a speeding sailing boat from behind. “The speed of our ranger boats is no match for a heritage yacht. It would disappear into the distance and we’d have no way of identifying it other than the name on the transom, the gigantic number on the sail, and the fact that the rangers know all the boats anyway” she said.

In their report, officers gave members the choice of recommending enforcement, or a warning letter followed by enforcement. A suggestion that the Authority should revert to the previous arrangement, instead of enraging stakeholders further for no reason, was dismissed on the basis that officers didn’t want to. “In any event” said the officer, “members agreed to ditch this arrangement in November 2017. Though funnily enough that’s not in the minutes.”

“Of course, minutes are not a verbatim record, though you can ask for the recording if you want” the officer went on. “But we take 21 working days to provide recordings - and as the monitoring officer only works one day a week - that’s 21 weeks, ha ha.”

New members of the navigation committee - invited to observe before their assimilation meeting - were left wondering what on earth they’d got themselves embroiled in.