Tag: logic

Time to ban children from the beach?

No, I’m not being serious… but consider the bit of health & safety lunacy allegedly behind the postponement of the opening of the pool at Highworth Recreation Centre.

The temperature of the pool, which is supposed to be 28 degrees celsius had dropped to 22 degrees overnight. According to Mr Baker children under eight are not allowed to swim in water below 27 degrees for health and safety reasons.

On that basis, children should never be allowed to swim in the sea off Britain’s coasts.

Which way are they going?

Whilst I can see the advantages of doubling the rail line from Swindon to Gloucester (the ‘Stroud Valley Line’ according to locals, or the ‘Golden Valley Line’ according to the operators), I suspect that Ms Girling (a councillor on more councils than is reasonable) may be rather disappointed with the outcome if Gloucestershire County Council’s campaign is successful. She seems to overestimate the area’s commercial attractions.

Without the extra track there is a real danger that the growth in new housing will far outstrip new jobs leading to a slowdown in the local economy, more people commuting out of the area and the inevitable knock-on effect of more congestion.

Err… commuting is a two-way thing, and improving the rail service will make it just as easy to commute out of the area as it will to commute into the area. I suspect that Swindon’s employment might benefit more than the Stroud Valley.

Ms Girling’s comments remind me of those of Sheffield City Council during the 1990s. They were adamant that the opening of the tram line from the city centre to the Meadowhall Centre would revitalise the city, encouraging the thousands that went to Meadowhall for shopping to make the journey to the city centre’s run-down shopping areas. It didn’t. What it did was enable city centre workers to make the trip to Meadowhall within their lunch break, further depleting trade for city centre stores. It took another ten years for the city centre to recover. I suspect this is not the effect that Ms Girling has in mind.

Freezers to replace wheelie bins

Just a week after Swindon Borough Council suggested doubling the number of plastic bags used for throwing away rubbish, we now have an even less efficient suggestion from a local resident: freeze your rubbish, then put it in your wheelie the night before collection. Ms Harris, whose idea this is, seems to be rather proud of her ‘logic’ in coming up with this idea.

I’ve done it ever since I’ve had a wheelie bin and I’ve never had maggots. It was an idea I just came up with myself. My husband says I apply logic to everything and it doesn’t always work, but this does.

It’s such a great idea, I’m thinking of buying an industrial freezer and providing, for a reasonable fee, maggot protection services to my neighbours…. On second thoughts, perhaps not. Let’s examine Ms Harris’ logic.

It’s simple. Instead of throwing away old plastic containers, that you get things like strawberries in, keep them. Put all your scrap foods and bits and bobs from your plate into the container…

That assumes you buy sufficient amounts of overpackaged food to store the scrap food in. It also assumes that the problem waste is sufficiently dry not to leak out of the container.

then put them in the corner of the freezer.

The corner of the freezer? Just how big a freezer is this? Someone cooking meals daily could easily generate more than just a ‘corner’ of waste in one fortnight. Those not doing serious cooking but reheating pre-packaged food are likely to have large amounts of bulky soiled packaging even less suitable for this treatment. And placing waste in proximity to waste: I’m sure the Health & Safety wonks would have a fit about that. Freezing significantly slows the decay process, it doesn’t totally stop it.

Anything frozen will not attract vermin or maggots or anything.

In a fortnight, true, but until it freezes you’ve got waste potentially oozing whatever contamination it already has over food in the freezer.

I’ve done it ever since I’ve had a wheelie bin and I’ve never had maggots.

There’s as much sense to that as there would be to burning all food just to avoid the risk of it being undercooked. Admittedly, the council’s own suggestion of double-wrapping rubbish is not much better.

According to Swindon Borough Council’s own figures, each week’s rubbish collection costs less than 75p per household.* Anything that costs more to prevent the maggot infestations is a step backwards in efficiency from the well-known Victorian solution to the problem.†

*Up to 1 tonne of rubbish per household per year with the cost of collection in 2004/05 (in the era of weekly collections) £38.62 per tonne.
†Yes, I know just a minority of households have suffered wheelie bin infestation, but the council’s advise is to everyone, not just the afflicted few.

Lies, damned lies and crime statistics

If you’re reporting a story that does little more than regurgitate some press releases, you’d at least try not to make any errors in what you copied, no? Step forward the Adver which, in publishing a story based on a press release from Wiltshire Criminal Justice Board, has managed to misquote the figures from an Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) press release.

The number of youths cautioned for criminal offences has grown 12 per cent in the last six years. The number convicted of a crime rose by three per cent since 2002.

What the IPPR figures actually stated was that the number of youths cautioned or convicted for criminal offences has grown 12 per cent in the last six years whereas for adults the rise is three per cent.

The Wiltshire Criminal Justice Board’s response to the IPPR report is to claim that the number of youths cautioned or convicted for criminal offences has decreased by 13 per cent in the last two years. In a later press release they go even further.

In the past three years we’ve seen a fall of nearly 40 per cent in the numbers of young people entering the youth justice system.

Well, that’s comforting isn’t it? No mention of detection rates or of the numbers of crimes being reported. As long as convictions are dropping, everything’s fine.

On the basis of the analysis done by the Wiltshire Criminal Justice Board, we’d be far safer if the police were abolished, because then no children would be convicted or cautioned. And regardless of what has happened in the last two years, by the boards own measure, youth crime is 12 per cent higher than six years ago. Just two years of figures are hardly evidence of a downward trend.

Life in Swindon Survey

Life as we know it…I’ve received a survey to fill in from Swindon Borough Council, titled ‘Life in Swindon Survey’. If the opening blurb is to be believed, its purpose matches its title.

We would like to hear your views about life in your local area and about issues such as, anti-social behaviour, leisure activities and your health. Your view will help us to plan our future services around residents’s priorities.

The survey itself though has very few questions specifically about ‘Life in Swindon’: only four out of thirty two. Three of these make up the entirety of the ‘Culture & leisure’ and ‘Your feelings about your local community’ sections (one on which attractions have been visited, one on satisfaction with Swindon town centre, and one on problems in the ‘local area’) and the other (on local adult education) is in the ‘Work and skills’ section. The section titled ‘Your community’ is virtually nothing about the community and almost everything about the individual filling in the form, with two questions about individual involvement in voluntary work, another on individual ability to influence decisions and only one on the community (about how well people from different backgrounds get on). Seven of the thirty two questions are standard demographic questions used primarily for classifying respondents. Having filled it in, I feel like I’ve been answering a survey that’s more about me than it is about Swindon or ‘Life in Swindon’.

I can’t help feeling this was a wasted opportunity. Much of the survey seems to be seeking information obtainable from other government agencies. What little’s left was hardly worth the effort — and possibly not the consultants’ fee either. There’s so much more to say on ‘Life in Swindon’ than answers to three questions can tell.

Stagnantly improving

I find it rather puzzling that Mr Small can convert the Audit Commission’s recentcomprehensive performance assessment’ that Swindon Borough Council is ‘improving strongly’ into something completely different.

I would also remind Nick Martin of the comments made last week by the chair of the audit commission, who described Swindon as a stagnant authority.

I’ve searched the Commission’s whole report for the word ‘stagnant’ — it’s not used once. If the chair of the Commission spoke these words, they seem not to have been recorded. The only mention I can find of Swindon being a ‘stagnant authority’ is Mr Small’s.

The leader of the red nest seems to have forgotten that, when his group were in charge, the council was, by the Audit Commission’s analysis, one of the worst performing councils in the country.

The only thing that seems stagnant in all of this is Mr Small’s contribution to political debate.

No easy ride on Route 45

Cycling obstacle courseRoute 45 at Mouldon HillI have previously commented on the silliness of some of the obstacles placed in the way of cyclists in Swindon. Today I came across one such obstacle at Taw Hill, on National Cycle Route 45. The route is newly signposted, with the signs indicating that it’s just 13 miles to Cirencester and, for the more energetic, 48 to Gloucester. But with pointless obstacles like the one shown — everyone, including me, cycles round, chewing up the grass — it wouldn’t be the quickest of journeys.

Surely there are more effective ways to slow careless cyclists whilst allowing more careful riders on their way relatively unimpeded.


I arrived home today to find my new wheelie bin waiting for me. Now I’m content enough with the small wheelie bin that, as I requested, I have received. It’s a little difficult to manœuvre around the narrow space between my gate and the front of my house (how I would have managed with a full size bin I’m not sure), but apart from that it’s fine. What annoys me is the nonsense contained in the leaflet that came with it.

Where and when should my bin be left for collection?
Your wheelie bin should be put at a point on your own property that is nearest the public highway,

That’ll be right in by my front door then.

where it is visible and accessible to to the collection crews.

As the bin is about twice the height of my front wall, it should be pretty difficult to miss, though given the record so far of the bin-men emptying my orange recycling boxes, I may need to train it to do a song and dance routine to get them to notice it. As to being accessible, at the moment the binmen hoick a black bag out of my dustbin ove the brick wall, without coming through the gate. WIth the wheelie bin, it is too deep for them to reach in and it will be difficult for them to manœuvre out of my gate.

Why change to a wheelie bin?
It reduces the amount of rubbish that is sent to costly and environmentally-damaging landfill by encouraging recycling

What? Just where did that demonstrable bit of nonsense come from? A wheelie bin does not of itself have any impact on the level of recycling, as anyone who lived (as I did) in a city where wheelie bins were introduced over eighteen years ago, way before doorstep recycling was introduced, would know. In fact, as the standard size wheelie bin is about four times the size of an old fashioned dustbin, if anything it could be said to encourage the throw-away society. By Mr Wren’s own admission, the biggest impact on the level of recycling in Swindon has been the introduction of separate doorstep collection of plastic bottles. The main influences on the level of recycling are making recycling easier by providing separate doorstep collection, and restricting the amount of ‘non-recyclable’ waste that the council will collect. The means by which that ‘non-recyclable’ waste is collected (be it by wheelie bin or for the anointed few by blue bag) is an irrelevance. It is bad enough that the council have foisted this change upon the residents of central Swindon with a sham consultation: it is an insult to the intelligence of the Swindon electorate that councillors and council officers continue to attempt to confuse the two issues of increasing recycling and the method of waste collection.

Finding a home for a centre

It would be easy to dismiss the protests of residents in the Tennyson Street area of central Swindon against a possible new drug user’s drop-in centre as NIMBYism. It is after all logical that the centre be located close to an area with a large number of drug addicts. However the proposed site is, as the residents say, close to a children’s play area which already has a reputation for being a location for drug deals and placing it quite so close to that play area is unlikely to improve the situation. It’s also not as though there aren’t a large number of vacant units nearby (and indeed closer to the centre of the drugs problem), many of them having been empty ever since they were built over a year ago.

Driving lessons

It is difficult sometimes to understand the reasoning of those running consultations for Swindon Borough Council. For the consultation on the North Swindon Transport Strategy, which is actually about transport between North Swindon and the town centre, of the three days Halcrow have selected for exhibitions, the only one at a time when many will be able to attend (i.e. at the weekend) is in North Swindon. The exhibitions in the areas most affected by the proposals (Gorse Hill and West Swindon) were on ‘working’ days. Not that the strategy actually seems to amount to much: the only major proposal is two extend Thamesdown Drive along a line near to the River Ray to a junction with Great Western Way, and the whole strategy is dependent on the government contributing &pound100 million. Perhaps those stuck in the jams should consider hitching a lift on the back of one of the pigs flying overhead.

Even harder to understand is the Adver’s choice of a photograph of current congestion in South Swindon to illustrate their story.