First we take the toddlers group, then we take Berlin

The reason madness prevails and the Elfansafetee lunatics have taken over the asylum is manyfold. We may see it as lunacy that coffee is banned at coffee mornings:

I am rapidly forming the opinion that these people have some sort of compulsion syndrome. They are truly ill. They seem to want to create a sanitised world which is impossible. [Man]

… but it’s worth scrutinizing the mechanism by which such decisions are taken.

Firstly, there’s something fundamentally wrong in the ability of ordinary people not able to bring these decision makers to account. There is a name for this idiot – Vicky Kersey, children’s centre officer at Warwickshire Council – and citizens affected by her decisions are unable to find redress nor have the slightest chance to reverse a decision and as you get into it, you see that it’s not actually her but those above her who are the insurmountable problem.

It’s only a test case and as we all know, council officer nazis infest councils up and down the country. Democratic deficit is what this comes down to, the “leave it to us, the experts, your betters” mentality.

Secondly, the poor quality of people placed in such positions is an increasing worry. What does it take to be promoted to a decision-making role? Passing meaningless exams to have a piece of paper hardly worth wrapping the chips in, compliance, the inability to think for oneself but to repeat the mantra.

Cogs, in other words, jobsworths.

Surely there is something desperately wrong with such a command structure, where those with common sense don’t even get a look-in? And the utter reliance on the bit of paper and the nature of that bit of paper! I’ve taken various courses of late and the nature and tone of those tests has my head shaking in disbelief.

Thirdly, the dedication to the mantra and the narrative hides many crimes in its name. Just what is it about the Elfansafetee narrative which sucks people in? The answer is that it so closely approximates common sense in many people’s minds, particularly the matriarchal, that they make the logical jump that this actually is common sense. “Well, surely you don’t want kiddies hurt, do you?”

A glance at the comments spells this dilemma out:

Every parent I know is well used to the flavour of cold tea and coffee because you just don’t get the chance to sip a hot drink with kids belting around at home. [Woman]

No argument there. But in the tradition of Monty Python who said: “I mean, who can honestly say they’ve not set fire to some great public building? I know I have,” in other words, the absurd couched in such reasonable language, appealing for acceptance as reasonable action, these unreasonable decision-makers go for that logical slide which is so hard to prevent. They begin with something we’d go along with:

Even at home, parents of small children apply all sorts of health and safety measures all the time, even without realising it, and leaving hot drinks unattended is fundamental. [Woman]

… which is fine. Parents are adults, they wouldn’t leave something lying about which was going to scald a kid. Then comes the slide:

Banning hot drinks at venues such as this is perfectly sensible, just as you would ban alcohol.

That’s worth looking at again – the first part – “perfectly sensible”, ever so grown-up and rational – and then the second part lightly tacked on – Ban it!

And syntactically, there is no stated subject in the sentence, just the old ploy of constructing the sentence with a verbal noun which avoids a subject, i.e. it leaves undefined exactly who will actually do the banning and to whom. What will be the limits?

As another commenter wrote:

Gosh, I really hope this doesn’t give Hertfordshire any ideas in the next four years – I love my Friday morning cup of tea and biccie at the local toddler group. [Woman]

Fourthly, the extenuating circumstances:

I really don’t usually agree with the ‘Elf ‘n safety lot, but on this occasion I find I do (trust me I’m surprised). I’ve seen mums with scalding drinks – water straight out of a boiling urn, chatting to other mums and oblivious to the children running around, who only have to knock into them and cause a spill to be scarred for life. [Man]

Y-e-e-e-s-s-s, the irresponsibility of the modern, nannied, feckless “parent” who really does need to be kept on a leash and advised by council officers in order to parent. Single-parent mums are cases in point, children themselves.

Fifthly, the hidden narrative. One commenter got down to what this was really about:

This has got nothing to do with child safety. It is the council trying to avoid all risk to prevent them being sued. This is due to the amount of no win no fee shyster lawyers and the amount of thieving chancers who will sue for the most trivial of reasons. [Man]

There is a solution, of course:

Buy a waist high folding partition to segregate the hot beverage area from the play area and let the boiling water stand for a minute before making drinks. Minimum cost, foolproof control measures which mean you have done all “reasonably practicable” to prevent a drink getting spilled on a toddler resulting in a burn.

… plus a suggestion the council puts up notices exonerating it from responsibility.

This fear of lawsuit is genuine in so many jobsworths who want no drama on their watch and in this poisonous culture, it is a very real possibility … but it’s also the Common Purpose cynicism of the people up top who see advantage in this madness spreading across boroughs and regions – it’s firstly a command and control thing and secondly a tool for the demoralization of people.

Salami tactics – a snip here, a meat cleaver there. The relentless grinding down of people with no redress.

As always, the question is – how to counter the bstds?

15 comments for “First we take the toddlers group, then we take Berlin

  1. Rossa
    March 3, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Along similar lines was the lady who was fined £70 for littering when a piece of cotton fell from one of her gloves when she put them on in the street. She didn’t see it fall but an Environmental Officer saw it, remonstrated with her, refused to see sense and insisted on issuing her with the penalty notice and said that the matter would be dealt with in Court if she didn’t pay up.

    Of course once it made the news the Council backed down. But then it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

  2. March 3, 2012 at 11:14 am

    “This fear of lawsuit is genuine in so many jobsworths who want no drama on their watch”

    Neither do their managers and that’s the problem.

  3. witteringwitney
    March 3, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    “something fundamentally wrong in the ability of ordinary people not able to bring these decision makers to account.”

    Now if we had direct democracy………!

  4. March 3, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    That is the correct legal background to this. Macdonalds had to pay out a class action following a series of children being scalded in its restaurants. (Fester and Kew handled the class action in the UK).

    Macdonalds served hot coffee and advertised it as such. However, the classic accident was for a cup of this to be knocked off a table and over a baby in one of the carry-chairs.

    The coffee was easily hot enough to require the child to immediately go to the burns unit (I have records of a case). The parents were able to claim against Macdonalds for this although there was no suggestion that they were responsible except in so far as providing the drink the parent had asked for.

    Furthermore, the attendance at the burns unit creates an automatic call at the Social Services, who then require the parent to ‘prove’ that they didn’t inflict the burn.

    As a result, the design of coffee cups changed, including the introduction of those beaky tops cups now have, and the serving temperature was lowered.

    The council have, of course, gone bally stupid here, but the underlying legal structure whereby a parent could claim for an accident which was not the fault of the building or its managers, is what really drives the lunacy.

    The claimants started it, but the courts should have had the guts to tell them that looking after a drink was the responsibility of the consumer.

  5. Able
    March 3, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    “I’ve seen mums with scalding drinks – water straight out of a boiling urn, chatting to other mums and oblivious to the children running around, who only have to knock into them and cause a spill to be scarred for life.”

    Oh how typical of modern ‘ladies’. So she’s seen other mums has she? I wonder does she have a a hot drink occasionally? But of course, as she is an intillectool, it is acceptable for her to do so, just not for everyone else.

    Also the ‘could’ thing is interesting. I wonder of all those ‘could have’, just how many has she actually seen – Oh, I bet none! So another non-problem which needs draconian legislation, what a surprise!

    You know, I occasionally like a hot coffee myself (Oh alright! I’m a coffeholic, satisfied?), and I can’t think of the last time I spilt one on either myself or a passing child (mine or others). Maybe there should be courses for these cogitatedly deficient on how to drink a beverage without spreading it down their shirt, over the ceiling, and all over Junior – tax-payer funded of course, run by Elf-n-Safety, with special High-Viz jackets (bibs?) for all graduates.

  6. Voice of Reason
    March 3, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    The standard measure of modern middle management is success in avoiding all decisions. This means that you can’t get stuck with any blame. Hence, it is easier and better to ban tea than to try and avoid accidents.

  7. March 3, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    If a bunch of mothers is yapping in one place, the kids are usually some distance away playing. If the mothers are freehanded of kids, then the coffee is usually at hand. Either way, what’s the council got to do with it?

  8. Dave_G
    March 3, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    SO a ‘catch-all’ (enter at your own risk – to put it bluntly) disclaimer posted at the entrance to all businesses/public buildings isn’t legal then? If signs such as that aren’t legal then insurance companies have a problem with THEIR disclaimers…..
    One therefore assumes such disclaimers ARE perfectly legal therefore why aren’t they used?

    • Richard Allan
      April 2, 2012 at 9:50 pm

      Dave_G, excellent question. The case in point is “Thornton v. Shoe Lane Parking Ltd [1971]”. Another case in which Lord Denning, who must have been some kind of closet Marxist revolutionary, continued taking a bat to whatever remained of English Common Law. Following it was the “Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977” or UCTA, which bans “exclusion clauses” relating to liability for personal injury, except in the case of insurance contracts as you’ve identified.

  9. Lord T
    March 4, 2012 at 11:56 am

    They should set up their own coffee mornings just for mums at each others houses. Let this place go down the tubes and cater for council workers only.

  10. Ed P
    March 4, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    D’you know, some modern houses are still built with open fires (gasp), have open hobs & kettles on worktops (oh no) and doors with finger-pinching jambs (the horror). How can house builders get away with these obviously dangerous features – does one have to take an elf’n’safetee course before buying one?
    When I think back to my own danger-filled childhood I’m very surprised I made it. Now who can I sue for compensation?

    • Maaarrghk!
      March 6, 2012 at 5:51 am

      I recently replaced my open fire with a stove.

      About 10 years back there was a knock on my door one night and a group of kids were telling me that they had seen “Faries” coming out of my chimney and “Honest Mister, we aren’t on drugs”.

      They were truly amazed and rather scared(but absolutely fascinated) on seeing the fire crackling away in the grate.

      I gave them a short lecture on fire being our friend that must be treated with respect and sent them on their way. Cured I hope.

  11. Tattyfalarr
    March 4, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    In other news….your council tax had been paying for women to sit chatting and drinking coffee and now simply pays for them to sit and chat. 😐

  12. Mustapha Bunn
    March 25, 2012 at 4:43 am

    I now live outside of U.K. but on a visit there in 2010 I visited a relative of mine who lives in a small village in Dorset.I was happy to notice,(irony intended),that every single power pole,carrying 240 volt wiring, has now been fitted with a small notice advising everyone that if you climb the pole you could get electrocuted …….. well there’s a surprise.
    Myself I blame whichever government it was that allowed the American legal professions style of “sue everyone for everything” to enter Britain.It wasn’t as if those that run us didn’t know of the problems it would bring.But then again most of their mates,if not themselves,are of the legal profession aren’t they and so stand to make lots of dosh whilst the rest of us fume !

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