December 2011



It’s good to know the spirit of compromise is alive and well in the town council that serves the attractive town of Bideford in North Devon (mission – the exciting to deliver the information you need about our decision making processes and support community participation in local democracy) supported by sundry national lobby groups with an axe to grind.

The issue that has occupied a good deal of the energy and time of the sixteen elected representatives of the good folk of Bideford is the earth-shattering question of whether their formal council meetings should start with a prayer or not.

This otherwise quaint custom became a matter of contention because a councillor who is an atheist objected to the routine blessing of the council’s deliberations by a man of the cloth (I’m not sure whether the body corporate of the council is advanced enough to admit a woman of the cloth).  He claimed to be ‘disadvantaged and embarrassed by the practice.’

The council have apparently discussed this burning topic three times without resolution and the upshot is that the National Secular Society has taken a case to the High Court in support of the councillor concerned.  To highlight the absurdity of the case the disadvantaged and embarrassed councillor is now an ex-councillor, presumably having resigned out of disgust or been rejected by his electors for the same reason.  Judgement in the case is currently reserved (lawyer speak for a decision is yet to be given).

On the BBC Today programme this week a spokesman for the NSS was countered by someone equally small-minded from the Christian Institute, so listeners could get a balanced view of this important issue.  For balanced read two lots of propaganda instead of one.

What better subject could there be for a rant as the HelpGov blog transforms itself into something a little more contentious and sheds the need to consider what potential clients think about it?

I think the rant’s already happened, but just to pile on the agony, doesn’t it make you despair?  Surely sixteen sensible adults could reach a compromise on something so fundamentally innocuous?

In the meantime the euro is collapsing, we seem to be creating a lost generation of unemployed young people, the world economy is probably moving into prolonged recession and the planet is arguably warming up to a point at which Bideford, for one, may well disappear under rising sea levels.

The only saving grace in the whole sorry tale is that town councils in England, while perhaps ‘supporting community participation in local democracy’ do…well not very much at all.  Their big brothers and sisters – the district, unitary and county councils are much more sensible.  I hope.


Remaining  readers of this blog– remaining because numbers fall away without a regular flow of posts (surprise) – will have noticed the last entry was on 16 October, an aeon ago in blogging terms.

The truth is this old (for which read mature, experienced etc.) guy has been undergoing something of a change in his life.

‘HelpGov’ remains as a name meantime but the company is being dissolved.  I decided it was time to try something new and my energies have been devoted this last couple of months to the excellent Open University creative writing course I signed up for over the summer, helping to fulfil a long standing ambition to return to a type of writing that engaged me many years ago.

One result is that I have reviewed this site and decided to transform it into a more open, free-flowing blog on anything that interests me about the public sector in its widest sense.  Unfettered by the need to think about potential clients googling ‘HelpGov’ to check me out before adding me to some far-too-long long shortlist for a contract, it threatens to be more polemical, prejudiced and maybe even wrong.

When it arrives, I hope every week (that’s called an aspiration not a target), enjoy and please comment.