The Plastic Hippo

March 8, 2010

Two and two make three

Filed under: Education,Health,Politics,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 12:53 am

The great Tom Lehrer, acclaimed mathematician as well as possibly the wisest American satirists of the last century, did not care for modern mathematical teaching methods.

“In the new approach,” he said, “the important thing is to understand what you`re doing, rather than get the right answer.” Professor Lehrer allegedly gave up writing witty lampoons on hearing that Henry Kissinger had been offered a Nobel Peace Prize saying that such news meant that political satire was dead. Now in retirement, a quick look at Walsall`s books might make him want to give up mathematics as well.

The ever vigilant and caring council recently trumpeted the allocation of a further £100,000 for road repairs. After the apocalyptic and calamitous natural disaster that saw Walsall buried under several hundred feet of snow for the last six months, four-wheel-drive vehicles are now obsolete. A tracked vehicle, preferable a Chieftain Tank, is the safest and smoothest way to get around Walsall. With road surfaces breaking up faster than footballers and eye candy, and the pavements crumbling under the weight of rhubarb spoken by the council, recovery from the ice age is proving difficult for good folks entrusted to spend our increasing council tax burden. Chucking a £100k bucket full of black stuff down a pothole is the same as chucking green stuff down a rabbit hole to lure Alice back from Wonderland.

Sage, cyclist and fellow speleologist, Brownhills Bob reproduced the council press release on his admirable blog site, both of which make interesting reading. The PR talks of green lights and investment, the national picture and how that naughty snow caused the damage. The relevant bland cabinet member was wheeled out to read the quote prepared for him by the press office but a significant actual fact emerged through the spinning slush. It seems we should be grateful that the road maintenance budget has reached a noble and mighty £5.7 million for this year. Hoorah.

In May 2009, a similar gushing press release, this time from Tarmac, boasted that their four year contract with Walsall Council was worth £7million a year. Here is a quote from Tarmac:

“The contract will see Tarmac’s National Contracting division deliver an integrated programme, which will include road surfacing, winter maintenance, 24-hour highways related emergencies, footpath reconstruction, sign manufacturing and erection, gully cleaning and reactive works such as pothole repairs.”

Curiouser and curiouser.

Now, if we take away 5.7million from 7million what are we left with? Now please, let`s not see the same hands going up. You…at the back?

The young people at the newly refurbished Mossley Youth Centre, about to be kicked out of nearby Sneyd secondary school, could easily answer that questions and must be delighted that £35k has been spent on doing up their space. The money has come from the government in the form of a grant from the Youth Capital Fund Plus, a funding stream that aims to give the yoot something to do as they are unlikely to get a decent education or a job. But spare a thought for the young people of Chuckery. About a year ago, our arithmetically inept council announced that they were going to build a £450,000 youth centre on a field where they played football and cricket. Locals, who rather like the field, suggested some alternative sites. No, said the council, the money has to be spent quickly or we will loose it. The funding was from the Youth Capital Fund Plus.

No youth centre was built and the brainiacs inside the Council House said they would spend the money on buses full of computer games. So, next question. What is 450,000 minus 35,000? You may answer this question when you are waiting for a bus. Extra time will be given if you are waiting for a bus to take you to a hospital.

It`s not just the council who can`t do sums. Over £5million has been spent on external consultants in Black Country hospitals with nearly £1.8million going on services that Walsall Manor Hospital cannot provide internally, no pun intended. In the same period, Walsall Primary Care Trust received £425million from the government and in the next financial year, £448.5million has been allocated.

So what is 425 plus 5 plus 23.5? Now look, you lot at the back, Bird, Towe, Ansell, Walker and McCracken…if you refuse to concentrate I shall report you to your house master. Now keep up!

Lewis Carroll, another outstanding mathematician, may have been looking into future when he described the branches of mathematics as “Ambition, Distraction, Uglification and Derision.” If we combine this axiom with that of Tom Lehrer, Walsall Council does not know what it is doing and consistently fails to reach the correct answer and then attempts to baffle us non mathematicians with erroneous figures.

To again quote Lehrer:
“Come back tomorrow, we`re doing fractions.”



  1. Another excellent piece!
    Just goes to show that captain cluless and his cronies really don’t know what they are up to.
    They just love ‘contracting out’ but haven’t got the brains to run the contracts properly – Tarmac signed a contract that included ‘winter maintenance’ but turns out they need more money.
    Doesn’t ‘winter maintenance’ mean fixing potholes? or does it mean gritting?
    Anyway, sounds like someone got something wrong because we are paying for winter maintenance, the roads weren’t adequately gritted and the potholes are multiplying.
    Just like the Serco contract – we pay Serco mountains of money but the schools don’t get any better.
    What next, I wonder?

    Comment by martin — March 8, 2010 @ 9:08 pm | Reply

  2. The thing I never fail to understand is why the contracting out model continues.

    At the end of the day the private contactor needs to make money to give to shareholders, so why is it that getting private contractors is seen as the way to value-for-money? They have to do the work and pay shareholders. Shurely that must cost more?

    Comment by stymaster — March 16, 2010 @ 10:40 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: