Thursday 20 December 2018

Bonfire of the Councillors

In the latest cynical ploy to create further divisions amongst Members, Dr Pikeman has announced his plans to remove all local authority and navigation committee members from the Blessed Authority.

Members last month approved proposals to triple the Blessed Executive Area by annexing 93 parishes from the District Councils, but also made the fatal error of giving Dr Pikeman delegated authority to “refine” the draft response to the Mitten Review of Notional Perks.

The last minute “refinement” - made in consultation with the Blessed Chairs - added a surprise proposal to remove all members with any form of democratic mandate from the Board, leaving only Secretary of State appointees - who are recommended by the Executive.

“My Blessed Chair and Vice Chair have been visiting Council leaders to ask them to remove some of the less… erm… co-operative members” explained the Chief Executive, “but we still get too many people who read all the papers and ask the wrong kinds of questions. My new proposal will heal our divisions by giving me absolute control, and abolishing the type of members who don’t agree with me.”

Pikeman Promise

Dr Pikeman’s Blessed Chairs are Temper Turtle, Mel Rio de Janeiro, Nookie Toilet and Louis-a-Bore. Ironically, 3 of the 4 will be culled as a result of the plan, but this was easily fixed with a promise to give Secretary of State Appointments to Turtle and Toilet. Rio de Janeiro needed no such promise, as she just trusts Pikeman to do the right thing. “He’s such a lovely man” she said “and we are blessed to have him as our Chief Executive.”

The Blessed Chairs, with Dick Bileson buying the drinks, form an unofficial “Executive” - to take care of all the tricky and controversial decisions which make Members’ brains hurt. An Executive isn’t actually permitted by law, which says that decisions have to be made by all Members. But, in response to the Peer Review recommendation for more “inclusive” governance, most members have been excluded from decision making and the number of full Authority meetings reduced by a third.

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Blessed Solicitor Bails Out

Hairy Davies, the Blessed Solicitor and Monitoring Officer has decided to call it a day, after a record breaking 28 months in the post.

The resignation came a month ago, but Blessed Chair Temper Turtle decided not to inform Blessed Members for security reasons, and because none of them would be interested anyway. “He’s only the solicitor” he said. “It’s not like he’s had much to do these last few years”.

Routinely forced to risk his professional reputation by ignoring the law and abusing the Authority’s own processes, Davies finally threw in the towel when asked to make new rules to clamp down on complaints. “I’ve had to re-define so many words that there’s now a Blessed Dictionary on every desk” he said. “‘Defamatory’ now means ‘anything that makes us cry’ and ‘unreasonable’ operates on a sliding scale depending on who’s doing the accusing.”

“The new policy is caused by changing public attitudes rather than our actions” said sacked Chair and so-called “Professor” Granny Burgess. “So we must do more to explain to stakeholders why they are always wrong.”

Her apprentice Temper Turtle agreed. “Unfortunately, the number of complaints has exploded, so we must find new and imaginative ways of dismissing them without investigation, rather than trying to understand why so many people are complaining about us” he said.

Blessed Benevolence

“As a responsible employer, we have a duty to protect our staff from criticism, no matter how justified it might be” commented Dr Pikeman. “Under the new rules, we can dismiss complaints out of hand rather than waste time covering up incompetence.”

“Intimidation of Blessed Officers has always been unacceptable,” he said “and now, under my new rules, we are redefining ‘intimidation’ to mean ‘disagreeing with an officer or pointing out that they are wrong.’ Better to dismiss the complaint than the officer - we have more than enough people leaving as it is.”

Shoot the messenger

“We must remain free to bully people and make up arbitrary policy on the hoof without the risk of being held accountable” Pikeman explained to a group of Blessed Sheep last week. “So we should always focus on the person doing the complaining, and where they got their evidence. Any complaint which refers to unofficial recordings or photographs taken in public places will automatically be dismissed.”

Other grounds for ignoring a complaint include mentioning it to your MP, DEFRA or the National Audit Office, speaking to the press, publishing your concerns on social media or telling your Mum.

It’s been confirmed that anyone using all three stages of the Authority’s complaints process will automatically be deemed a persistent complainant. “I get seriously bored with the repetitive inanity in these intemperate and highly objectionable complaints” grumbled Dick “Vice” Bilson. “All criticism is intolerable and the Authority will decline to engage with anyone who indulges in it.”

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Pikeman Strikes Back

In an audacious move designed to strike terror into the hearts of residents, businesses and councils, Dr Pikeman has announced his plan for the annexation of 93 Blessed Parishes, in an attempted land grab dubbed “Operation Crimea”.

Smarting from criticism that the Blessed Executive Area isn’t large enough to justify it’s own planning department, Pikeman plans to wrest vast swathes of land from the districts and bring them under the control of his dysfunctional Authority - for the purpose of “improving engagement” with landowners and residents.

“Co-operating with neighbouring Authorities has always been a challenge for us,” said Dr Pikeman, “and by taking over their territory, we won’t have to.”

“Our research suggests that we can expect strong support from Parish Councils for this enlargement of my personal fiefdom” he went on, “as well as from Natural England who we think will be grateful to cede control of nature reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest to me, in pursuit of my Blessed Purpose.”

Hand In Glover

The fiendish plan is part of the Blessed Response to the Mitten Review of Notional Perks, which Dr Pikeman hopes will give him the status he craves.  “The only thing stopping me from being Chief Executive of a proper Notional Perk is this wretched navigation nonsense” explained Pikeman. “But I’ve worked out that, if I re-brand navigation as ‘recreation’, then we can get rid of the Blessed Third Purpose along with that infernal navigation committee and, hey presto, it’s hello Blessed Notional Perk.”

“As a bonus, I get my hands on all that lovely toll income” he said, drooling into his beard. “I need it to fund my huge AxleBridge Erection now that the budget has doubled.”

Tuesday 13 November 2018

Blessed Planners Demand Flammable Cladding

A home owner in Mehstead has been told to rip the cladding off his new self-catering holiday property because it can’t catch fire and is too long-lasting to be sustainable.

Blessed Officers told members last week that the fake timber was a pale imitation of the real thing. “The local building vernacular of the Broads features dilapidated and rotting structures requiring constant maintenance” said one, “and their gradual decay complements our policy of managed decline.”

“The use of materials which will still be around in 20 years is considered inappropriate”, the Blessed Spokesperson continued. “Our policy that materials must be ‘high quality and sustainable’ obviously means ‘must rot and fall apart quickly’, and we’re confident that the planning appeal inspector will agree - despite us having already lost an appeal on uPVC windows last year.”

Officers went on to say that they’d looked at the price of renting out the house and that the £13,000 cost of replacing the cladding would easily be funded by next summer’s income, in fact by their reckoning the building will already have paid for itself by then. [The same officers have worked out the business case for building the AxleBridge Visitor Centre].

Blessed opinions were divided. “You can’t even see the cladding from the river, it’s 75 metres away” pointed out voice of reason Tommy Vicarson, but was pooh-poohed by Blessed Vice Chairman Dick Bilson. “You don’t even own a boat” he said. “I’ve got a boat and I can see the difference with my eyes shut. Anyway, the owner can obviously afford to replace the cladding, it will only cost the price of a round of drinks in a Mongolian brothel”. 

Blessed Chair Temper Turtle said that if the Authority allowed the cladding to stay then the Broads would descend into “planarchy”, where giant ‘temporary’ structures could still remain after 3 years without enforcement action, or huge visitor centres could be erected on riverside farmland against every conceivable policy.  Bilson agreed. “We can’t have the integrity of our planning department compromised” he said, with a straight face. 

Henna Larson apologised for the Authority’s incompetence and advised the applicant to appeal. “It’s just bloody amateur hour here every time” she said, as her familiar nodded in agreement from the floor.

Monday 6 August 2018

AxleBridge Deb-acle Continues

Details continue to emerge of Dr Pikeman’s latest ego trip, the Broads National Pike Visitor Experience at AxleBridge.

Usually, an organisation would identify a need, develop a business plan and set a budget before buying land and selecting a design. But the Blessed Pikeman Principles permit a very different process:

1. Identify a “business opportunity” in the shape of a dilapidated riverside shack.
2. Purchase it using navigation funds on the pretext of providing public moorings.
3. Entice members with the concept of a coffee shop, showers and other boating facilities.
4. Decide to build a “landmark” visitor centre instead and announce a £750,000 budget without asking members first.
5. Beat off hordes of architects, all hungry for a big cut of public money.

The design selected on behalf of members swallows half the moorings, lacks any boating facilities at all, occupies more land than the Blessed Authority owns and can’t be built within the budget which was never agreed anyway.

“This was always the plan” said Blessed Chair Temper Turtle. “An education centre is essential for people like Dick Bilson and myself who don’t know anything about the Broads, and Yarco Council are kindly gifting us a derelict toilet block by the bridge to convert into a yacht station - whatever that may be. Then we can buy a bit of arable land next door to build John’s visitor centre, which I've decided to call ‘The Granny Annex’ in honour of my wonderful predecessor.”

At July’s Blessed Meeting, members bravely started to question the need for Turtle’s Granny Annex, pointing out the lack of a business case and raising concerns about the design. But Dr Pikeman cleverly convinced them that it wasn’t their job to agree either the principle or the design, because that would give them a conflict of interest when they had to approve it at planning committee. Instead, an outside consultant will be paid to invent a business case and the executive will agree the design with the architect.

“We need to keep members out of this process until the very end, to protect them from any risk of pre-determination” said Dr Pikeman. “They can look at it when the designs are finished, by which time it will be far too difficult for them to turn it down” he continued. “I like to give members a clear choice of pissing public money up against the wall, or making an embarrassing u-turn - because they’ll go with spending the money every time. And, now that I’ve reduced the number of Blessed Meetings by 50%, I can probably get this all pushed through before the next one anyway!”

Dr Pikeman scoffed at the idea that it would be more appropriate for members to agree the project, and for Birdland District Council to determine the planning application. “Don’t be ridiculous” he said. “The whole thing is contrary to planning policy - and that’s even before we start trying to build it on a field. We’d never get planning permission if we let someone else determine it for us.”

Saturday 4 August 2018

And breathe…

Blessed stakeholders are being offered free places on a yoga workshop the Blessed Authority is organising in September.

“I have been practicing yoga for over a decade”, said Dr. Pikeman “and I find it very beneficial when I need to detach myself from the brutality of everyday life and the demands of my work. The Authority is comprehensively letting stakeholders down at every level and I feel that if only they could connect to their higher selves and stop thinking about dredging and spending public money sensibly, we would all be in a better place.”

The yoga workshop takes place on 22nd September at Twitlingham Dogging Park and every disgruntled stakeholder is being offered a free place - with those suffering legal proceedings or planning appeals or enforcement being offered a complimentary head and neck massage as well.

“I can highly recommend yoga as a way of reducing stress”, the newly elected Chair Temper Tantrum chipped in. “Dr Pikeman insists I meditate before every meeting to stop me bursting into tears and calling everyone a bully who doesn’t agree with me.”

Tickets are £10 for gullible Golden Triangle hipsters, all others free of charge.

Tuesday 31 July 2018

Blessed Moorings and Coffee Mornings

As if further evidence was needed of its detachment from reality, the Blessed Authority has recently banned a holidaymaker from running a Macmillan Coffee Morning from a 24 hour visitor mooring.

The holidaymaker had the full support of Robertsons, the hire boat’s owner, but thought it would be nice to ask for Blessed Permission as a courtesy - never expecting to be turned down.

Heavy-handed enforcement has become an integral feature of the Blessed Mooring Reduction Policy, with rangers no longer able to exercise sensible discretion over well-intentioned rules. “Trading from visitor moorings isn’t permitted” said Dr Pikeman, “and by stretching the wording of the regulations to the absolute limits of the English language, we’ve managed to define a charity coffee morning as a trade, cleverly preventing Macmillan Cancer Support from raising a few extra pounds.”

The decision follows the news that dozens of visitors to the Broads will be denied the experience of sailing on an Edwardian wherry next month, because the Blessed Authority won’t reserve a mooring for the historic yacht. “Reserving a mooring for a heritage asset for a few hours would obviously be grossly unfair” said new vice chairman Dick Bilson, “especially when they pay such a cheap toll. What even is a wherry anyway?”

The Blessed Management Forum, a hitherto unknown executive group which makes decisions on behalf of members without their knowledge, made a similar ruling earlier this year when it refused to reserve a mooring for a Three Rivers Race Guard Ship at Axlebridge - potentially affecting the safety of competitors in the 24 hour endurance race. “We would love to have helped but decided not to” said Dr Pikeman. “What even is the Three Rivers Race anyway?”

Despite the restrictions affecting safety boats, historic wherries and charity coffee mornings, it was confirmed that workboats owned by the Blessed Authority can continue to be moored for weeks at a time on visitor moorings around the Broads - in flagrant breach of the rules. “You can’t stop Project Pikeman” said new chairman Temper Turtle. “Even if every toll payer, visitor, cancer sufferer and survivor writes to members, it won’t make the slightest difference. What even is accountability anyway?”

Friday 27 July 2018

Blessed Stakeholders Told To Get Stuffed

A retired copper and a disgraced former ambassador have been elected to the top jobs at the Blessed Authority.

Temper Turtle agreed to take over the baton from Granny Burgess, on condition that she would continue to whisper in his ear from behind the scenes and remind him of the common purpose.

Dick “Round of Drinks” Bilson, meanwhile, moves into the vice chairman spot vacated by Turtle, who replaced Sir Dick Peterson one meeting ago.

Their election comes in spite of a brave and spirited attempt to bring accountability to the Blessed Authority by blonde bombshell Henna Larson, who stood on a ticket of improving stakeholder engagement and paying attention to the peer review recommendations.

Despite presenting members with her vision for a better future for the Blessed Authority, openly supported by every senior stakeholder in the entire Broads, members voted for Turtle, whose manifesto read “Everything she said but minus the politics, so vote for me”. Turtle and Larson are both tory councillors.

Chairing her last 5 minutes of Blessed Meeting, Granny accused members of fixating on the wrong sentence of the peer review report. “I told you it was about common purpose” she yelled “and not about a comprehensive review of stakeholder engagement. When will you listen?”

The election was widely seen as a chance to change direction, after the fiasco of shutting down the Blessed Forum and generally ignoring the peer review. But members decided to stick with what they know, as it’s easier than thinking and listening.

“The lobbying from these so-called stakeholders was intolerable” said Turtle. “It’s bad enough being bullied by a 5 foot blonde bird, and my boss. I’m not listening to any Blessed Outsiders and refuse to be told what to do except by Dr Pikeman and Granny” he said, before waddling off like a lame duck.

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Landmark Deb-Acle

The Broads National Pike Visitor Centre took a step forward today as the Blessed Authority announced a shortlist of 3 expensive carbuncles from a selection of 100.

Dr Pikeman expressed his “genuine surprise” as architects fell over themselves at the prospect of taking a large fee for designing a £750,000 café in the middle of nowhere. Or, “a prime Norfolk Broads tourism spot”, as Axle is now to be known.

The Blessed Authority has a long and proud history of pointlessly expensive vanity projects, including an abortive spell in exotic offices at Horsefly House, the Spirit of Boredom ranger launch which can’t go under bridges, and the famous Mockyard which is too small to house a boat. As is customary, the budget for the latest scheme was publicised without consulting members, to avoid the embarrassment of anyone disagreeing with it.

Keen to learn from the Mockyard experience, all of the shortlisted designs dwarf their surroundings. “We wanted something which could survive extreme flood events and climate change” said a Blessed Judge, “and we’re confident that any of these buildings would still be visible even with a 100ft rise in sea levels.” Sustainability is also key to the designs, with an insistence on low maintenance non-flammable materials like thatch and timber cladding.

The designs include one intended to look like the bastard offspring of a moth and a wherry, and another which is supposed to work like a giant periscope - already dubbed “The Upskirt”. However, the winning entry will be the giant “National Pike Education Centre”, by virtue of the clever inclusion of the words “National Pike” in its title. “In addition to the inspirational name, what we particularly liked about this design was the assimilation of most of the moorings into the frontage of the building” said Dr Pikeman. “This accords with the Blessed Mooring Reduction Policy, which requires that we continue to reduce the number of visitor moorings year on year so that we don’t have to maintain them.”

Judges were also pleased to be spared the embarrassment of considering any entries which complied with planning policy, confirming that none of the designs would be acceptable if put forward by a private developer. “Landmark buildings like these are contrary to policy, so only an organisation responsible for determining its own planning applications could consider building them” said Dr Pikeman. “Fortunately, I only have 2 planning officers left and I don’t have to play the Long Game anymore, so this will be a doddle.”

Sacked Chair Granny Burgess expressed her excitement at the prospect of spending nearly a million pounds for no reason. “We have no idea how many visitors we might get, or how much money they might spend, or really what the benefit is at all. But we still believe it represents strong value for money” she said.

Tuesday 8 May 2018

Blessed White Elephant Planned for Axle

Axle is set to become the official centre of the Blessed National Park, as the Authority announced plans to build the world’s most costly café on the banks of the River Bile at Axle Bridge.

Sitting opposite two other watering holes, Blessed Members believe that there’s still demand for a third riverside hostelry, but with the unique selling point of not having any beer. “We have a duty to make the Broads as safe and joyless as possible” said so-called Chair Granny Burgess “and the market for alcohol-free riverside cafés is inexplicably under-served by the market. For just £750,000, we believe that we can create a world-class and profitable landmark tea and cake shop.”

The Blessed Authority routinely refuses consent for any form of development in the flood plain - including a glamping site directly opposite - but such restrictions will magically disappear for the Authority’s own latest scheme. “We can put the plug sockets above flood level and use waterproof cladding” said Dr Pikeman, “so I don’t see what the fuss is about.”

Last year, highways lodged a hefty objection to the creation of Poopoo’s restaurant on the other side of the bridge, on road safety grounds - usually the kiss of death to any private development. For reasons which have suddenly become apparent, however, the Blessed Authority comprehensively ignored the safety objections and gave consent. After all, even they would have difficulty giving themselves permission for a development by the bridge, having just refused someone else.

The proposed budget is strangely similar to that other famous white elephant, the Blessed Mockyard, which Dr Pikeman was quick to defend. “That was three quarters of a million pounds well spent” he said. “We never intended to get a boat in there anyway - we have a temporary tent for that - but moving the offices out of a portacabin and on to the first floor means that the staff have a much nicer view.”

When asked if Blessed Members had authorised the budget for Axle’s Super Caff, he merely replied “not yet, but they don’t have a choice now that I’ve told everyone, mwahahaha.”

Sunday 29 April 2018

Granny Wields The Knife

The Blessed Forum is set to become the latest victim of the post-Peer Review clampdown on stakeholder engagement - known as Granny’s Guillotine.

Back in November, Granny challenged the Forum on its value and effectiveness, as there seemed to be a lot of people saying things that she didn’t agree with. “The Forum was fine when they said what we wanted them to say” said Granny. “Recently though, reactionary forces have started to talk about things which are not reflective of the views which I hear from my small group of what I call ‘friends’. Frankly I’m bored with hearing about governance and accountability, whatever they may be. I’d rather they had lectures on climate change and the effect of Brexit on farming, that should keep them quiet.”

Members reminded her that their official role is to offer advice and comment on the Blessed aims and objectives, and said that it’s hard to be effective when nobody is listening and members have to endure Death by PowerPoint instead.

But such dissent is obviously in breach of the Blessed Purpose and so, faced with the prospect of Forum members discussing the outcome of the Peer Review, Chairman Keith Sausage was bullied into cancelling February’s meeting at the last minute on the basis that there was nothing to talk about.

Determined to know how the recommendations of the Peer Review were to be addressed, one brave member put forward an agenda item for last week’s meeting. But the Authority cleverly deployed the Pikeman Pretence, by pretending not to receive the email and instead issued a one item agenda intended to disband the Forum altogether.

Honey Trap

To make things worse, when members arrived for the meeting they found that it had been hijacked by Granny and her ever-loyal poodle Dick Bilson, who took the chair which had been suddenly and mysteriously vacated by Sausage. Quickly realising that he wasn’t a member of the Forum and therefore couldn’t chair it, the former Ambassador to Magnolia decided to cancel the meeting and convene a different one instead - to discuss the future of the Blessed Forum which was, in summary, that it didn’t have one.

“There are far too many organisations involved, and disregarding all of them consumes a lot of resources” he said. “So we’re going to let them have 2 workshop things each year instead, discussing one subject which we’ll plan for them a year in advance to make sure that there’s no chance of it being relevant.”

“We’ll replace the more regular meetings with discussion by email - which is much, much easier to ignore” he added, as Granny tossed him a treat.

The early-retired ex-diplomat is being positioned as Granny’s heir apparent, as nobody else is foolish enough to take on the poisoned chalice. “They’ll be begging for Granny to come back before the year is out” said Dr Pikeman, shaking his head in disbelief.

Friday 20 April 2018

Blessed Temper Tantrums Rock Shaky Peace Process

The Blessed Society ("Friends of the Blessed") was rocked to its foundations recently with the shock resignation from their ranks of Blessed Chair Granny Burgess, along with her ever-loyal pet poodle Dick Bilson.

The surprise move is a protest against an article in The Hamster written by its Chairman “Uncle” Paul Special-Fried, who (as a Blessed Member) is banned from criticism of the Authority under the Burgess Accord, agreed earlier this year after a scathing Peer Review which has been swept under the carpet alongside the previous one.

In his report, Special-Fried suggested that relations between the Blessed Society and Blessed Authority had been difficult at times and said he was sorry that the Society wasn’t given the chance to contribute to the Peer Review.

Keen to dispel any notion of disharmony, the hyper-sensitive and increasingly-deranged emeritus professor flew off on her broomstick in a rage, resigning her membership of the Society and drafting a motion of no-confidence in Special-Fried for Blessed Members to nod through at the next meeting. “I won’t tolerate criticism from these so-called ‘elected’ non-academics” she said. “They can speak their mind, or they can be Blessed Members - but they can’t do both.”

“The Peer Review told me what I wanted to hear and anyone who disagrees with me can go and stand in the corridor” she added.

Blessed Members were left bemused by the outburst. “I thought we'd put all this divisiveness behind us,” said one, “but she’s the absolute bloody limit. Who does she think she is, resigning from the Society on the Authority’s behalf just because somebody contradicts her?”

But former-diplomat Dick Bilson was quick to support his mistress, swiftly cancelling his membership with a strongly worded letter to the Society’s secretary. “Yap yap yap yap yap” he said.

As he left Yeurgh House for the evening, Dr Pikeman was heard muttering “that bloody woman is going to destroy all my hard work” and shaking his head in disbelief.