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The question Bureaucracy

Municipal engineers in Stockport have been ordering workmen to burn off the white zig-zag lines at pedestrian crossings and replace them with zig-zags going the opposite way. The reason: over-zealous interpretation of new government regulations. So what mindless bureaucracy have you encountered in your working life?

I don't really get too worked up about bureaucracy these days, mostly because I simply ignore any application of trivial rules. Happily, mindless office bureaucracy, at least in my local government office, has virtually disappeared.

But I still recall when I was in my first job as a bright new consulting engineer asking a draftsman why he was rubbing out all his drawing.

He said he got paid the same for rubbing out as he did for drawing in. This wisdom helped me through all those occasions when the job was more frustration than fun.

But, hey, life is too short to get worked up about bureaucracy!

Dudley Swain, 54, performance manager, Exeter The most mindless bureaucracy that I have come across in my career was when attempting to get planning permission for a 1.2m high by 0.75m square plastic kiosk on a plot of land owned by a local council, situated in an industrial estate and overlooked by two aged, rusting gas holders. I duly sent off completed forms, a location plan and a colour brochure showing exactly what a small everyday run of the mill roadside kiosk looked like. Soon after, I received a request for a drawing showing elevations of all four sides of the kiosk, plus a floor layout, all at 1:100 scale. I was informed this was standard practice. I pointed out that what they had asked for was elevations the size of a thumbnail. They suggested I could draw them at a larger scale but I said that as they had asked for 1:100 I would comply exactly with their wishes. The response was that if they then considered this to be insufficient information then they could carry on asking for more details. There comes a time when you have to accept that the lunatics have taken over the asylum and I concluded this time had just been reached in mine.

Robert Pike, 40, voice of reason, Exeter Thankfully, I do not remember any pointless tasks which took place when I worked for Bolton Metro;

but I am sure there were some.

May I suggest that it is the lawyers who get their knickers in a twist and are the cause of such 'wasted effort'. They would delight in making a meal out of lines that go zag-zig instead zig-zag. I am sure the average motorist would have no clue about which way they should be, any more than they know that yellow lines have to be a standard width to be legal.

Roland Arthur, 63, former head of highways and structures, Bolton Probably the most pointless task is the current vogue for adjudication in lieu of negotiation.

This mindless piece of legislation was foisted on an unwilling industry by the last Conservative government without proper consultation. Predictably it has led to increased litigation and expense, which is obviously in the end met by the unfortunate client.

Perhaps though, I am being naive in thinking that this chaos is in fact pointless. After all, it was introduced by lawyers for lawyers.

A way of MPs enhancing their pensions, perhaps?

Tom Moss, 63, projects director, Hertfordshire

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