Monthly Archives: April 2023

  • Bureaucratic logic

    The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) is a combined authority consisting of the local authorities of Bristol, South Gloucestershire, and Bath and North East Somerset.

    The authority’s functions, as specified by the West of England Combined Authority Order, mostly cover planning, skills and local transport.

    And this post is specifically concerned with transport and buses in particular.

    Since passing pensionable age last year, your ‘umble scribe has been entitled to a concessionary bus pass offering him free bus travel within England, subject to various conditions.

    That being so, your correspondent has found himself doing things he hasn’t done for many a decade, like running for buses. 😀

    At the start of April, significant changes were made to bus services within the WECA area. To announce the changes, posters were put up at bus stops. At the foot of each poster, some useful information is given (not that the remainder of the posters did not also provide useful information. Ed.), as shown in the photo below.

    Further assistance
If you are unable to access information online, our Transport Operations Team is available to assist you on 01173741266 or via email on uk

    Like your ‘umble scribe, readers may also be perplexed at the advice given to those without internet access to contact the Transport Operations Team by email. Obviously a kind of bureaucratic logic of which normal mortals do not wot is at work, together with a degree of perspicacity to which the fictional Yes Minister could only aspire.

    That’s not to say that the authority does not have aspirations. Indeed, the term vision appears some 500 times* on the WECA website, according to a site-specific Google search.

    Those working at the authority are therefore in need of a doctor in the opinion of the late West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who famously quipped “Wer Visionen hat, sollte zum Arzt gehen“, usually translated into English as Anyone who has visions should go to the doctor. Perhaps a logician would also not go amiss. 😉

    * = This count is a lot less than the instances of vision on the Bristol City Council website (posts passim).

    Update 07/05/23: five weeks after the actual timetable changes were implemented, new revised timetables have finally started to appear at bus stops; see photo below. No need to rush as it appears that if you’re a local government organisation, you are at complete liberty to do your allotted tasks entirely to your own satisfaction!

    New timetable information at bus stop on Church Road Bristol
  • Bilingual illiteracy

    Playwright Oscar Wilde gave his character Lady Augusta Bracknell some memorable lines in his play The Importance of Being Earnest.

    Of these, one in particular related to the difference between misfortune and carelessness:
    To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

    In the case of contractors working for gas supply company Wales & West Utilities in Abertawe/Swansea, carelessness seems to be their modus operandi, as per this report on the Swansea Bay News website.

    On a job outside Llangyfelach Primary School, the utility’s contractors managed to spell school incorrectly as shcool. Sharp-eyed Cymraeg-speaking readers will aslo notice that its Welsh equivalent ysgol is also misspelt as ysool, although this appears to be from an earlier job, judging by the colour differences in the asphalt.

    Road markings showing School and Ysool
    Image credit: Rob Jones

    Speaking to the BBC, Wales & West Utilities said the cock-up had occurred during repairs to the local gas network. Its spokesman Phil Whittier said: “Unfortunately, (we) have misspelt the word ‘school'”. However, denied any responsibility for the misspelling of ysgol. The BBC reports that Swansea Council has been contacted about that incorrect spelling.

    The error has gone around the world, being mocked as far afield as Australia, with some parents suggesting on social media those responsible be made to write school out correctly one hundred times.

  • Sunak and his low-carbon escort

    It’s not unusual for heads of government and state to have their motorcades accompanied by motorcycle escorts, as seen in the example below from 2009 of the then Chinese president Hu Jintao‘s visit to Zagreb in Croatia.

    Hu Jintao motorcade Croatia 2009
    Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
    On Sunday – the day of the London marathon – a fleet of cars containing the alleged Prime Minister was spotted surrounded by two sets of police officers – one on bicycles and the other on foot.

    Sunak has in recent months been criticised for his disproportionate use of flying, both on private aircraft and on military ones, including one of a mere 25 minutes’ duration.

    The Telegraph has suggested the action was to thwart the attentions of environmental protesters from Extinction Rebellion.

    If that were not the case and Fishy Rishi was making a vain attempt to reduce his carbon footprint, your ‘umble scribe would like to introduce him to a new word to add to his vocabulary: greenwash.

  • Mail continues its anti-Welsh campaign

    Why does the Daily Mail hate Cymraeg – and by implication the speakers of that language so much?

    It was one of those Anglophone media outlets that blew its top earlier this week over the decision by a second Welsh national park authority to call the national park solely by its Welsh name – a name for prominent local topographical features that reaches back over a millennium (posts passim).

    Yesterday it discovered and did a hatchet job on a petition currently gathering signatures on the Senedd Cymru website calling for the exclusive use of Welsh place names,

    Headline reads The end of Cardiff, Swansea,
Newport and Wrexham?: English place names could be BANNED in Wales as language extremist bids to stop cities being called by ‘culturally oppressive’ names

    To quote the same places named by the Mail, your ‘umble scribe sees no problem at all in Caerdydd, Abertawe, Casnewydd and Wrecsam being referred to by their names in the local vernacular, which have existed for centuries. He also believes that if the Mail is against something, what is being ranted about is inevitably worthwhile.

    The Mail’s anti-Welsh piece was also boosted by Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, who used it as a means of attacking what he called extreme policies likely to be introduced by a future Labour government, no doubt winning approval from his colonial masters at CCHQ in London SW1.

    Tweet reads Under Labour, here in Wales we face many extreme policies. They are not just dangerous but a major distraction. It’s why we have far longer NHS waiting lists than England. A warning of the dangers a Starmer government would do

    Since the Mail’s intercession the petition, which was languishing with a signature count of some 250, has now amassed over 300.

    Da iawn! 😀

    Update 23/04: Following coverage in the Welsh media of the Mail’s bigotry, the number of signatories this evening is now approaching 700, well above the threshold for its consideration by the Senedd’s petitions committee, if somewhat short of the 10,000 needed for a debate in the chamber.

  • French Customs censured for illegal retention of personal data

    CNIL logoFrench IT news site Le Monde Informatique reports that the French Customs authorities have been sent a formal notice by the CNIL, France’s data privacy regulator, in respect of an illegal data file containing the details of more than 45,000 people, including copies of identity documents and records of criminal offences.

    French Customs logoBusinesses are not the only organisations with which the CNIL has found fault for holding illegal files containing personal data. Public sector organisations can also fall foul of the law.

    The French Customs authorities, which come under the control of the Ministry for the Economy have been caught red-handed following a report in respect of Customs’ file used for recording information about vessels and their crews which is known as SIRENE. Intended to identify all the people checked at sea or in port in order to combat fraud, this system was in fact developed and implemented with no legal basis and not in accordance with the law, according to the CNIL

    Checks were carried out by Customs’ Channel-North Sea-Atlantic coastguard service and inspections revealed that recourse to this system did not comply with France’s Data Protection Act. This data system actually lists information about the vessels checked and their passengers, including personal information such as marital status, address, occupation and copies of identity documents, as well as criminal convictions (drug trafficking, counterfeiting, off-the-books employment, failure to co-operate, sexual assault, possession of illegal weapons, intentional homicide and murder).

    6 months to comply or be fined

    All told, the details of 45,793 persons – including 392 minors – are included in the SIRENE file. “The creation and use of the SIRENE file are not provided for by any legislation (for example a law or a decree). In addition, the CNIL has not received a request for an opinion concerning its implementation, in violation of the Data Protection Act (articles 87 and 89, the CNIL explained. Other grievances have also been lodged against the Ministry for the Economy, such as the failure to send an impact assessment in respect of the protection of personal data and the lack of a clear distinction between the data of the different categories of persons concerned. or the fact that the latter were not made aware that their data had been included.

    Following the CNIL’s formal notice, the Ministry for the Economy and Customs have 6 months to comply otherwise a penalty could be issued.

  • Bore Da, Bannau Brycheiniog!

    Yesterday the news was announced that, following the recent decision by its fellow national park authority in North Wales, the one covering a large swathe of south Wales would henceforth be called the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park in English.

    There was also a video to accompany the name change.

    However, the change has not gone down well, particularly in the rabid right-wing monoglot English press, as shown by the image below from yesterday’s Daily Mail website.

    Headline reads Now 'virtue-signalling' bosses at Brecon Beacons announce plans to drop national park's English name in favour of &'eco-friendly' Welsh one promoted by actor-turned-activist Michael Sheen

    Not forgetting to add all their typical smears, they’re touchy souls at the Mail, aren’t they? Nevertheless, like all good Anglophone monoglots, they cannot even get the pronunciation of Bannau Brycheiniog right. In Brycheiniog, the ch is pronounced as in the Scottish loch, not like an English ck as written in the Mail.

    Furthermore a ‘columnist‘ at The Independent also did not want to be excluded from being outraged and mocking the Welsh language, as Nation Cymru reports.

    Nor has the change met with universal approval in Wales itself.

    To being with, Reach plc’s Cardiff-based Wales Online title adopted a provocative stance with its headline at the top of yesterday’s home page (clickbait for a largely monoglot Anglophone readership not known for voicing its support for either Cymraeg or Cymdeithas yr Iaith? Ed.).

    Headline reads Welsh national park changes its nonsense name

    However, the all-Wales whinging trophy has to go to the Welsh Conservatives, those faithful servants of their colonial masters in London SW1, with the charge being headed by their Senedd and Welsh ‘leader‘, one Andrew RT Davies, who planted the Welsh Tories firmly in the Anglophone camp.

    Tweet reads: It’s just a hunch, but I sense the Welsh people won’t think renaming the Brecon Beacons should be a priority. The Beacons are as recognisable outside of Wales as they are here. Why undermine that?

    This earned him plenty of derision, particularly from his fellow Welsh, of which the following is typical.

    Tweet reads Why do you hate Welsh people having our own language and identity?

    If Mr Davies doesn’t like his compatriots using their own language and celebrating their own heritage (the hills were known as the Bannau Brycheiniog long before the monoglots arrived in force), perhaps he ought to relinquish his seat in the Senedd Cymru and find a nice safe Tory constituency in the English Conservative heartlands.

    I for one shall look forward to visiting the Bannau Brycheiniog and Eryri (the national park formerly known as Snowdonia. Ed.).
  • The Galleries – Bristol’s sunlit uplands?

    Unicorns are commonly described as horse-like creatures with a single large, pointed, spiralling horn projecting from their foreheads. They have been depicted as such in European art for at least a millennium, although their origins stretch way back into history to the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilisation and the Middle East.

    In a more recent context, the sunlit uplands first popularised in Churchill’s “This was their finest hour” speech in 1940 was dusted off by the Brexit zealots and Europhobes to denote the boundless possibilities which faced the country once it had extricated itself from the stranglehold of the alien and oppressive European Union.

    Those on the Remain side of the argument eagerly populated these mythological mountain pastures with herds of unicorns to illustrate the delusions of the Brexiteers. Those who turned the unicorns loose on the sunlit uplands have since prove correct in the mockery: Brexit has been an absolute disaster with increased bureaucracy and delays at the Channel ports, not to mention the 5% plus decline in GDP

    Being built on what were the banks of Bristol’s tidal River Frome (long since culverted. Ed.), the Galleries shopping centre could not in any way be classified as belonging to any uplands, sunlit or otherwise. Nevertheless, one empty shop unit on the top floor was populated by a whole herd of unicorns.

    A decorated plastic unicorn on a wheelboard

    Had they migrated from those Phoebus-favoured hills? Despite the £116.8m cost to the taxpayer and low visitor numbers of the original, was the city planning its very own Festival of Brexit?

    The answer was staring your bemused correspondent in the face in one of the shop’s windows.

    Yet another tarted-up unicorn

    It was another of those local sculpture trails (posts passim), this time featuring unicorns instead of gorillas or Gromits, ostensibly to celebrate the 650th anniversary of the Bristol gaining county status in 1373, presumably by the usual practice of the time of local worthies giving the reigning monarch a large amount of cash in return for a charter or, as stated on the festival website:

    Unicornfest, part of the 650th anniversary celebrations for Bristol, seeks to unite the business and creative sectors, as well as local communities and schools across Bristol and the surrounding area, bringing art, colour and fun to the streets of the city this year.
  • Seriously

    The language used in official responses to news stories seems to have been rigid and formulaic in recent times, particularly amongst those organisations within or linked to the public sector.

    Today’s edition of The Register reports that ACRO, the UK’s Criminal Records Office was taken offline due to a security breach. The site currently displays a holding page blaming ‘technical issues‘, a fine example of misleading bureaucratic language.

    This is the site’s holding page as this post is published.

    Text reads Thank you for your patience as we work through our technical issues. To obtain an application form for a POLICE CERTIFICATE, send the applicant name and date of birth to: To obtain an application form for INTERNATIONAL CHILD PROTECTION CERTIFICATE, send the applicant name and date of birth to: Please do not send an email to the above addresses if you have already submitted a form. Someone will contact you to take payment. For future updates on this matter please see our customer services Twitter account:

    El Reg notes that manages ACRO people’s criminal record information, running checks as needed on individuals for any convictions, cautions, or current prosecutions. It with British police and businesses, as well as exchanging this data with other countries, particularly where people wish to move or emigrate to another country and a certificate of good behaviour is required from the British police. ACRO has access to data from the Police National Computer via an information sharing agreement with the Cabinet Office.

    The data typically handled by ARCO includes name and address history, extended family information, a new foreign address, legal representation, passport information, photo and data PIN cautions, reprimands, arrests, charges or convictions.

    Earlier this week, ACRO emailed users to inform them that it had “recently been made aware of a cyber security incident affecting the website between 17th January 2023 and 21 March 2023“, adding that “we have no conclusive evidence that personal data has been affected by the cyber security incident; however it is only right that we inform you of the situation. We are very sorry that because of your interaction with ACRO your data could have been affected, and we are working tirelessly to resolve this matter.”

    Anonymous generic hacker complete with hoodie

    The message went on to say that “robust measures” had been taken as soon as the breach was discovered. It won’t be the first time that pulling the plug on a website has been described by a public sector organisation spokesperson as “robust”, If your systems were truly “robust”, taking the site offline would not have been necessary.

    After intoning the “robust” mantra, ARCO then goes on to say: “We take data security very seriously and will ensure that the matter is fully investigated…. Translating this into plain English, this means “Oh dear! We’ve been caught out!”

    The fact that ARCO had not taken data security “very seriously” is clearly highlighted by two facts:

    • Firstly, ARCO did not notice crooks were gaining access to its computer systems for more than two months; and
    • Secondly, it has now freely admitted that it is going to take steps to find out how the breach happened and prevent its reoccurrence. A clear case of that old adage of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

    The public sector relies heavily on public trust to do its work. If it really does want to be taken seriously, tough measures need to be taken and implemented, not just for IT security, but in connection a very ancient and fundamental idea: that of honesty.

  • Speaking truth to power

    The Twitter account of the British Government’s Home Office is normally a conduit for the worst ideas dreamt up by the alleged government’s most authoritarian and repressive ministry.

    As such it tends to repeat and amplify the dog-whistle racism and xenophobia embodied in the hostile environment that has characterised its attitude to non-British people, particularly if they are not white, since the Home Secretary was one Theresa May, who later went on to do bad prime minister impressions in the Westminster Palace of Varieties.

    The post of Home Secretary is currently occupied by one Sue-Ellen Cassiana “Suella” Braverman, a woman of no discernible talent other than being incompetent and nasty.

    Braverman is currently on her second term of office as Home Secretary, having been initially appointed as such under the premiership of one Elizabeth Mary Truss on 6 September 2022. However, like her boss, Braverman did not last long in post, resigning because she had made an “honest mistake” (a likely story. Ed.) by sharing an official document from her personal email address with a colleague in Parliament, an action which breached the Ministerial Code.

    On 25 October, Braverman was re-appointed as the home secretary by the prime minister Rishi Sunak, in direct contradiction of his promise of “integrity, professionalism and accountability”. Does someone who broke the Ministerial Code have any integrity or professionalism?

    Since her re-appointment, has continued with hostile policies towards refugees and asylum seekers with a modern take on the reintroduction on the prison hulks of two centuries ago to house these people before they are deported to that shining beacon of human rights known as Rwanda.

    Yesterday, the Home Office’s Twitter account finally admitted how dangerous the Home Secretary was, calling her “one of the greatest injustices in modern Britain” and calling for her end.

    Tweet reads It is time to put an end to one of the greatest injustices in modern Britain. The Home Secretary, @SuellaBraverman

    The post has since been deleted.

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