When I say ‘… a bit boring …’, I mean that nothing really eventful happened. A few new residents zones installed, new staff, new equipment but nothing startling for about six years. The team and me just plodded along. So as I say, when I look back, it was just a bit boring. Still enjoyed the job and most of the staff were easy to work with and I had built up a bit of a reputation, but that was about it.
Then, towards then end of 2012 rumours started appearing about job/staff changes. We had two members of staff leave and they were not replaced and this started to worry a few people. We were told that they would be replaced in the new year, but that we would have to manage until then. Which of course we did.
Around about this time, the Council were beginning to look at reducing staff to cut costs. Central funding was being cut and departmental budgets were being squeezed. The Council was promoting what the called ‘Early Leavers Initiative’ or ELI. Essentially what this was voluntary redundancy. Staff would leave, get the standard redundancy payment and gain access to their works pension. I thought about this a lot and K*** and me decided that it might be a good move. Leave the Council and get another job somewhere else with a nice lump sum of money in the bank. So in January 2013, I applied for this ‘ELI’. After a few weeks, I received a reply, explaining that I could not be considered as I was ‘too valuable to the service’.
Later in 2013 me and a colleague (one who I had a bit of an issue with) received an email, quite out of the blue which explained that service was being reviewed and that we were part of that review. I queried this ‘review’ with the Assistant Manager who dismissed it as ‘… just something the Head of Service had to do and that it would not affect us …’ His face was a picture when both me and my colleague, G*** forwarded him the email we had received. He still claimed that it would not be an issue and that he would get someone to explain it all to us.
A couple of weeks later someone from HR did come and explain. What was happening was that some of the posts throughout the department were being looked at, to try and centralise some of the functions. the example they gave was that G***, who was our Training Officer would probably serve the department better if she worked within the Training team, where there would be vacancies in the future. The same applied to me, and I would be of more use in the departments IT service area. We were assured that we would still have a job, but it was still a very worrying time and made a mockery of the reason I was rejected for ELI. Not so valuable now, I thought.
You may be aware that I work part-time in a local café. One of the many features of this café, is their free Wi-Fi. The access code is displayed for anyone to use if you know where to look. Most customers will use the Wi-Fi for what it is there for i.e. so they can check their emails or show someone pictures on their phone, that kind of thing. However, there is an increasing number of customers that seem to visit the café with the sole purpose of accessing the the free internet.
On Tuesday this week, I arrived at work around 10:20, which is my usual time and noticed a customer sat at a 4 seater table. He had his laptop open and was also using his phone. I also noticed he was wearing a pair of headphones and one of those ‘cheek mikes’ that seem to be the norm these days. I hovered around his table for a few seconds before entering the kitchen and realised that he was conducting some kind of interview with somebody. Over the course of the next couple of hours, he still seemed to be talking to someone and on a couple of occasions, he got quite animated. He eventually left at around 12:45, or at least that’s when I noticed he had gone. From what I could see, he had drunk one cup of coffee and who knows how many glasses of free water. I mentioned to the chef that he had gone and he explained that he had been sat at the table since about 09:00. Just one cup of coffee!! The table staff have been told not to move people on, but to keep asking if they require anything else. They call it ‘good customer service’. But what about the ‘good customer service’ for the customers who cannot get a seat?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for getting free Wi-Fi in places I visit, but come on … lets not abuse it.
Things did start to get better as the next few years progressed. Staff realised that I was not the ‘bossy’ type that the previous occupier of the post.
In 1991 the Government decided to ‘de-criminalise’ parking offences. The Road Traffic Act 1991 (RTA), allowing local authorities to issue parking tickets for contraventions such as: parking on yellow lines, footway parking, not displaying valid pay and display tickets or parking permits within a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ). Leeds were now starting to look at the pros and cons of this new legislation. But before that could happen, Leeds needed a new processing system. I was asked, because of my ‘technical knowledge’ to be part of the team that looked at the different systems that were available. Unusually for me, I asked what it was worth? The manager had been expecting this and offered me an upgrade in scale to S5. I remember sitting there pretending to think about and then, even more unusual for me, I countered with ‘”Could you make it S6?” I think he had been expecting this and he agreed, there and then.
There were many trips out to various Local Authorities to see their systems and to talk to users before we settled on ours. One of the the things that kept cropping up, was residential parking, or parking outside your own property. As more and more people had cars, and the cost of parking those cars increased, many drivers took to parking in residential streets, much to the annoyance of the local residents. To try and overcome this problem Local Authorities set up Residents Parking Zones which allowed the residents within that ‘zone’ to obtain a parking permit(s) for themselves and visitors. Leeds were using card permits that were hand written with any required details and they did not look very professional.
The new legislation would give the Council control over the parking in these Residents zones, and it was decided that any new system would have to be able to cope with the issue of more accurate and professional permits. This also meant that jobs and job titles would have to change. Parking Attendants became Civil Enforcement Officers, clerks became Customer Service Officers and a new team called Appeals Officers was created. The new system used mail-merge for the first time to create individual and personalised letters. This meant that we could now send parking permits that were no longer hand written and could not be easily forged. It became one of my jobs to both design and implement these new style permits when we were ready to take on the new service. That new service started in 2005 and things started to get better for everyone.
It’s the question I get asked most if the subject of my blog crops up. Well the word “Alfie” isn’t usually part of the quest, although someone did sing that line to me on one occasion. However, it confuses most people when I tell them that it’s “About nothing, but then again about any and everything” And that’s more or less what it’s about. What I want to say and when I want to say it. I don’t have a theme. I tried that when I first started with Blogger and failed, although the “From then to now” posts do have a sort of theme running through them. So this is possibly one of the reasons my posts are more random than some other blogs. Something could affect me today and I’ll post about it and then something else could happen tomorrow and I would post about that. Then it could be a couple of weeks before I’m ready to write again.
It’s funny how politics and scandal seem to invade everyday conversation these days. The subject of Boris and the alleged ‘thigh grab’ came up at work on Monday. My colleague was completely bewildered by why she did not do anything about it at the time. I did try and explain, that 20 years ago someone who is trying to establish themselves and build a career simply did not ‘tell tales’ about an employer. If they did, it could have serious repercussions. It is only since the ‘#me too’ allegations came to the fore, that incidents are now being exposed.
That’s enough ‘politics’ for now. Normal service will be resumed in due course.
The daily, weekly and monthly back-ups were a bit of a bind for most people, so as I had taken over the job, my popularity had begun to grow a little. However, this wasn’t to last. The scaling system for what was essentially junior office staff started with S1, then S1/2 then S3 followed by S4, S5 and S6. The S1 level was reserved for staff under the age of 18. These were very few and far between at this time, so most people in the Council were S1/2 or above. I had been there just over a year when the chap on the S3 level decided to leave. He wasn’t getting the promotion he expected and he had decided to go back to the private sector. This left an opening for 7 of us on the S1/2 scale.
I wasn’t going to apply, as I felt that 3 of the others had more experience than me and were probably better suited to the job. It was one of the two Supervisors that told me to apply for a number of reasons, and it gave me food for thought. Then when the other Supervisor repeated the same reasons why I should apply, I decided to bite the proverbial and I completed the required application form (no CV’s in those days for the lower grades) and handed it in. I wasn’t expecting much, but knew that all internal applications were interviewed, so really I had nothing to lose. The interview went as well as could be expected and afterwards I felt that the manager may have gone a little easy on me. This was due to the comments the other 3 main rivals had made when they thought I was out of earshot. To cut a short story even shorter, I got the job and was due to start the following Monday. This, of course did not go down well with the other internal applicants, and it soon became clear that I was back to square one with, what were now the lower grades.
The main premise of the job was to be the first line answer to written correspondence about a parking ticket. An appeal letter would come in, it would be logged by one of the S1/2’s. They would also create a file for that correspondence, and it would be passed to me. My job was then to read the letter, make a decision to progress it for payment, progress it higher or cancel the ticket. I would say about 95% of the appeals that came in failed with only 1 or 2 % going to a higher level. All the rest (3%) were cancelled.
The letter writing was something I had not seen before, although I understand that it was a standard practice. All replies were constructed using pre-written standard paragraphs with some even being standard letters. All I had to do was attach a piece of ‘scrap’ paper, with a series of letters and numbers ie P1, P4, P6 etc. This would then go with the file, to the typing pool who would type up the letter and return it for posting. There were no word-processing in those days. Most of the typists used huge Canon typewriters that had a little memory but nothing like what is in use today.
But I now had a little bit of faith that I could make it in an office situation.
On Saturday 21st, the Yorkshire 2019 Para-Cycling International competition started in Wetherby. This was the first time the Para event had run beside the UCI World Road Championships. The UCI event has been running since 1921 and it was only the 4th time the UK had hosted the event. The last time was in 1982. The local craft shop, Create asked for people to knit/crochet bunting in the colours of the UCI to decorate the town. A mile of bunting was needed so a lot of 7”x7”x7” triangles had to be worked. I estimated that they would need around 3730. In the end over 4200 were made. For my part, I only managed 20, but I felt I had done my bit.
Now to get to the point of my post. The whole event seemed to be very unpopular with some people. Because most of Wetherby town centre would be closed for a great part of the day, A number of businesses decided to close. I think that was a shame, but that’s up to the owners and their business assessments. But it was some the comments I heard that brought out the Grump in me! Comments such as:
“They should have done it on Sunday … I’m going to lose money…” and “There should have been more riders … only 70” and “It’s so inconvenient on a shopping day …” and (from a charity shop) “Disgusting waste of tax-payers money …” and “So badly organised … only one crossing point” (3 actually). Luckily there seemed to be more positivity than negativity. It was the second comment in my list that wound me up “… more riders … only 70”. I’m afraid I had to tackle the person and comment back. I asked “What did they want … more people to be disabled or more disabled to get on their bikes? When was the last time you rode a bike round the Yorkshire countryside?” Still waiting for an answer to that one.
All in all, I think the whole competition has proven that Yorkshire is quite a exciting place for the professional cyclist. Just need to get the general cyclists to learn the rules of the road. But that’s another
It’s been three weeks since my last post, and there have not been any real reasons why. I’ve just been a little bit lazy I suppose. I don’t like writing when there is a chance of being disturbed and with the problems we are experiencing with our youngest son, sitting and putting fingers to keyboard has not been the top of my to-do list. I think I’ve explained here before that Rh*s is Autistic and has several other linked conditions. One of the issues many Autistic people have is routine. Things have to be the same with little or no variation. Rh*s likes to know what he is doing, where and when he is doing it and who with. Changes, even the slightest can lead to anxiety and stress, which often manifests in his behaviour. He currently lives at his residential placement for 4 nights and 5 days a week. He is picked up from home Monday morning and returns Friday evening. It’s taken a long time to get to this stage, and he appears to be happy with the arrangement. He has his own flat and many staff to support him on a daily basis. However, it is now the time to plan his placement for the next year, and this is causing some issues.
I create a planner that shows the nights he sleeps at his flat and the nights he doesn’t. This planner is on his bedroom wall at home and one of his walls at his flat. The current planner ends on the 31st December this year. Since the middle of June, he has been ‘worrying’ that he is not going to his flat next year. Before he can see his dates we have to run it past the representative, of the people who funds his placement and this is where there has been a stumbling block. We believe, that as his placement is fully funded for 24/7 care, that the funders are going to insist on him going 24/7. We, as parents, and the support team do not think he is ready for this yet and we may have some arguments to overcome in the next couple of weeks. The uncertainty has come out in his behaviour, to the extent that he is not wanting to do some of the activities that we know he enjoys. He has also taken to ‘chanting’ about his dates. Every so often and at the moment it seems to be every hour or so he will recite “Friday, Saturday, Sunday” for every weekend up until the end of 2020. This is basically, we think is his way of asking “What am I doing next year?” We think he can actually picture his calendar in his head, rather than actually remembering the dates.
We were supposed to be meeting with the representative for a review of Friday, but the person had got some crossed wires and did not turn up. The meeting has now been rescheduled for early October, but this does not resolve the issue we have. What we and his care manager are now thinking, is that we just go ahead with the dates we are looking at, and if the funders are not happy with that, the issue will be taken to an advocate to speak for him in what they call “Best Interest”. From what I understand this advocate will look at what each party thinks is his best interest and make a decision. Could go either way, but I think that parents and carers know what is best for him more that someone sat at a desk with a financial spreadsheet in front of them. Gong to be a stressful couple of weeks.