Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I love Hackney

I love to participate in peace and its inseparable companion quiet so I was very sad that I missed out on celebrating ‘One Love Hackney’, ‘a week of peace’ that ended on Sunday. I suppose in a way I was participating as I didn’t start any wars at all. I was tempted to mind, with my neighbours across the hall who think our foyer is a shoe locker. Either that or they are planning to stage Nabucco out there and are in a permanent state of dress rehearsal. I would like to also place on record that I did not carry a gun or knife for the entire week, although I did chop the odd onion.

While poking around the internet seeing if I could find out more about the mysterious ‘One Love Hackney’ movement I came across one of its supporters, Team Hackney. This is not, as you might assume our borough beach volleyball team, but the new name for our Local Strategic Partnership. The reason for rebranding is fully explained on its website, www.teamhackney.org.uk,

‘The name changed to show how we all need to be part of the same team for a better Hackney’.

If that makes any sense to you, there are half a dozen reasonably well paid positions being advertised on the website but you need to be quick because applications close on Monday.

Many may be baffled by this term Local Strategic Partnership. This is a collection of people of a certain age decorated with bits of braid, Bart Simpson ties and lizards running up their lapels who get together once a month to tackle the thorny problem of how to make your life better. Never mind that you are all over that one yourself and are busy planning your next trip to Tenerife to accomplish just that aim.

The principle of a Local Strategic Partnership is that all the top people from all the organisations who work out how to remove your garbage most effectively get together to decide how best to provide you with services in exchange for your council tax. Because they are all so fiendishly clever and knowledgeable, the problem ends up far more complex than you would have imagined possible.

They also know how important it is to be flexible in this fast moving, ever changing environment so no decisions are actually taken. It would be wrong to be prescriptive. A half day out of the life of a busy chief executive of something called a primary care trust is a major undertaking and completing ‘problem walls’ and ‘solution trees’ easily as taxing as solving Fermat’s last theorem so the mounting cost of providing executive finger buffets and luxury fruit platters is money well spent.

One of the things they have been able to agree on and commit to is the need for ‘new ways of working’. This is a great improvement because it stops them from playing Free Cell all day. Unfortunately these revolutionary ideas have not yet filtered down to front line staff who are all on game 28,927. The last person to successfully complete the game will be buying the drinks. Thank goodness for Wetherspoons as the Embracing our Diversity and Maximum Respect Unit is now around fourteen thousand strong. This has added a whole new dimension to ‘hot desking’ as three people are now allocated to each chair and are required to ‘stack’ during the core hours of work, unless they are on long term sick leave.

There is one serious draw-back to achieving new ways of working. Whilst Ad-4-u have been remarkably innovative in meeting the prodigious challenge of creating new names for everything, they are less gifted in the cut and thrust of putting together a robust job description. Whereas the job you are going for might have the attractive title of Team Leader for Maximising Respect and Building on the Chill (PO4), your job description will be cut and pasted from that of a Senior Clerical Officer (PO4), circa 1972.

All Local Strategic Partnerships are required to have a Community Strategy. This is a master plan, if you will, for how this group of dedicated professionals will achieve the betterment of your life on your behalf. Before you start to celebrate, you should note that Team Hackney’s strategy, is called Mind the Gap. I was reminded on reading it of the great philosophical axiom, ‘as you go through life, keep your eye on the donut and not the hole.’ If you would like to read about nothing, it is much shorter than anything by JP Sartre.

If you live in Hackney and would like to discuss this further I will be the person sitting next to you on the plane to Tenerife.

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