Tag Archives: civil service

‘Opening your village hall?’ Or ‘Any muppet can manage their multi-use community facilities’

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It struck me that you might want to open your village hall or community centre so I thought I’d guide you through the new rules which are at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-multi-purpose-community-facilities/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-multi-purpose-community-facilities

First there is a series of warnings.

Many community facilities are also workplaces and those responsible for the premises should therefore be aware of their responsibilities as employers. The government is clear that no one is obliged to work in an unsafe workplace.

 

Organisations also have a duty of care to volunteers to ensure as far as reasonably practicable they are not exposed to risks to their health and safety and are afforded the same level of protection as employees and the self-employed. [As an aside that came as a surprise to me, I didn’t realise the self-employed were entitled to any level of protection. Heigh-ho, live and learn.]

 

You should also consider the security implications of any changes you intend to make as a result of COVID -19. [Whose security? National Security, are we worried about terrorist threats here? Or just make sure the building is locked properly overnight?]

 

After telling us to be aware of “2 metres distancing (or 1 metre with risk mitigation)” we get to the nitty-gritty.

 

“From 4 July, users of community facilities should limit their social interactions to 2 households (including support bubbles) in any location; or, if outdoors, potentially up to 6 people from different households. It will be against the law for gatherings of more than 30 people to take place.”

 

So whilst you can have up to thirty people in your village hall, this is only possible if they come from no more than two households (plus their support bubbles. Between ourselves are bubbles all that structural? I for one wouldn’t want to be supported by one.)

Actually the ‘support bubble’ is “if you live by yourself or are a single parent with dependent children”. So each support bubble can add one adult and an unknown number of children.

 

Then you get to this bit.
“However, premises or locations which are COVID-19 secure will be able to hold more than 30 people, subject to their own capacity limits, although any individual groups should not interact with anyone outside of the group they are attending the venue with – so in a group no larger than 2 households or 6 people if outdoors.”

 

As far as I can make out, if your village hall has a several meeting rooms which don’t force people to mix with other groups, you can have people in these meeting rooms and as long as each group is no more than thirty strong you can have more than thirty in your village hall. But each room can only be used by people from two households (and one assumes support bubbles, but it doesn’t actually say.)

 

I will pass over the section on entrances, exits and queue management.

 

Then we get to your relationship with other ventures in the area.

 

“The Individual businesses or venues should consider the cumulative impact of many venues re-opening in a small area. This means working with local authorities, neighbouring businesses and travel operators to assess this risk and applying additional mitigations. These could include:

 

Further lowering capacity – even if it is possible to safely seat a number of people inside a venue, it may not be safe for them all to travel or enter that venue.

Staggering entry times with other venues and taking steps to avoid queues building up in surrounding areas.

Arranging one-way travel routes between transport hubs and venues.

Advising patrons to avoid particular forms of transport or routes and to avoid crowded areas when in transit to the venue.”

So according to this the manager of the community centre will talk to the manager of the cemetery on one side and the school on the other and they’ll work together to fix their opening times, and take control of the pavements outside marking lanes for people to walk. At the same time they’re making sure that they don’t all come on the same bus. (To be fair, with a village hall in a rural area, there won’t have been a bus since some time in the last century.)

 

Who wrote this? What planet are they living on?

 

So let us take our village hall booking secretary. He or she is probably at home as they’re likely to be over seventy and they’re taking telephone bookings. Let us call them Pat Smith

 

The phone rings

“Pat Smith here.”

“Hi Pat, I’ve heard the hall’s open so we want to book a room for history society meeting.”
“How many are coming?”

“Haven’t a clue Pat, you know how these things are.”
“Well how many households might come?”

“Well everybody is a member of a separate household.”

“Well you’ve got two households with their support bubbles. That probably means no more than four of you. But apparently six can meet outside to perhaps you could leave a window open and the others can stand outside?”

“Well I suppose if the speaker shouts everybody will be able to hear him.”
“No shouting, the guidance states, ‘All venues should ensure that steps are taken to avoid people needing to unduly raise their voices to each other’.”

“Right you are Pat. Will you collect the money?”
“No I cannot leave the house, just push the money through the door as usual.”

“We’ve got our key so we’ll let ourselves in.”

“Yes but how are you getting there?”

“Well I was just going to walk.”

“Could you walk via Biglands Farm. It means you avoid the school and the bus stop because we’ve got to avoid transport hubs.”
“But it’s an extra three miles.”

“Oh and can you delay your return until 11pm because the Flower circle is meeting and you know how long it’ll take for some of them to walk home.”

“How come the Flower circle is meeting in the village hall, there must be a dozen of them and they’re all in different households.”
“They’re not meeting in the village hall. They’re meeting in the queue outside the chippy. They can stand a meter apart and talk for as long as they like.”

 

The whole document runs to 3620 words. Christian charity demands that I spare you the rest of it. But trust me it doesn’t get any better. There’s even an enforcement section which promises poor Pat Smith, “serious fines and even imprisonment for up to 2 years”.

 

It has to be said that people who’ve seen this have commented on it. But actually when I read it I just thought, ‘same old same old.’

I have spent a lot of time working with Defra over the years, as part of the consultation process. In reality a lot of this means going through draft regulations and draft statutory instruments correcting them.

You see, left to their own devices, the civil service seem to produce stuff like that I’ve just critiqued. I may have been unlucky in dealing with Defra and the RPA but a lot of their stuff starts off just like this. If you work your way through a document and you don’t discover clauses that contradict each other, clauses that are impossible to obey and others that are impossible to police or even measure, then you’ve probably got a version that’s already been consulted on previously. I’ve seen clauses in draft regulations which were actually worded to be diametrically opposed to the regulation they were implementing. I’ve seen stuff that has just been copied and pasted out of a previous document and put into this one, even though it was agreed to drop it when the previous document was scrutinised.

 

I realise that there isn’t time for a full consultation process on these documents, but please, could we just have a grown-up with some experience of the real world go through them with a thick red pen crossing out bits and annotating it.

 

Let’s be sensible here. “The Individual businesses or venues should consider the cumulative impact of many venues re-opening in a small area”

 

So why are all the shops in the town centre open at the same time?
“Arranging one-way travel routes between transport hubs and venues.

Advising patrons to avoid particular forms of transport or routes and to avoid crowded areas when in transit to the venue.”

 

Well Tesco doesn’t do it. Walking down the main street in town to get to the bank, none of the shops or institutions I went into advised me, “to avoid particular forms of transport or routes and to avoid crowded areas when in transit to the venue.” So if HSBC or Tesco don’t have to do it, why does poor old Pat Smith?

 

We cannot have six standing in the village hall car park, but if you stand in the queue at a takeaway you can have any number of you meeting.

 

Frankly it’s no wonder people have lost patience with it all.

♥♥♥♥

So if you do want to reopen your village hall, I recommend you read this first. It’ll be absolutely no help whatsoever but it has the advantage of being comprehensible, amusing and well written.

 

We continue to explore the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. In this invaluable publication Tallis Steelyard discusses the ways in which a writer can bring their work to the attention of the masses and more importantly, sell the book to them. As well as this, we have the importance of getting home under your own steam, music and decorum, brass knuckles for a lady, and of course, a few simple spices.
Surely this is the one essential book that every aspiring novelist should both purchase and study.

 

As one reviewer commented, “Tallis Steelyard: A Guide for Writers, and Other Stories by Jim Webster is as advertised, a collection of stories with different themes. I will look at only a few of the twenty-six tales. The School for Assassins under the title Tidying Up Loose Ends is remarkable in its tone. In some areas of Tallis Steelyard World, purposeful and planned killing is accepted; it is the casual acceptance portrayed in the story that I find worthy of attention. There are several sections on writing (per the title). Tallis will comment on the associated functions of publishing and promotion. If you are a writer, an avid reader, a reviewer, a publisher, or a person who attends events for the free food and drink, these sections are not to be missed. Readers may find themselves portrayed in one of the groups. The section on writers who write about writing for fun, profit, and financial independence will stick in my mind for a long time. Webster uses humor rather than a direct assault on the commission of scams by charlatans. I believe the author is holding back on “saying what he really thinks.”

The unsurpassed beauty of Tallis Steelyard creations is the elegant language used with precision to separate the occasional absurd from the daily mundane then remixing to produce entertaining stories. I like to select favorite quotes because there is no better way to illustrate what I find to be a unique writing style. This five-star collection reminds me of a quote from a film (possibly paraphrased). “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never quite know what you are going to get.” (Attributed to F. Gump). Readers will find literary candy of many varieties in this “guide.”

The importance of getting home under your own steam ***** Readers might guess by this story’s title that there is alcohol involved. True, but it was Bongo’s birthday. The passing of years brought Bongo to maudlin reflection on a boring life. Tallis and company decided that if Bongo could be transported home on a palanquin carried by a score of naked harlots, at least the birthday party would be a point of interest in Bongo’s otherwise humdrum life.

I will point out one feature of why Tallis Steelyard stories are great. Look at the word “naked;” it is OK to free associate. Then “By the time the wine was finished I was somehow surrounded by nearly three dozen young women dressed much as nature had intended.” (Kindle location 53). Further interesting imagery comes to mind. The narrator is not vulgar or offensive and does not employ “shock” terminology to describe weird situations. Bongo’s wife was not offended; readers should follow her example.

Not perhaps the best location ***** Sneal, a wandering merchant spent a day traveling on his way home through the unfamiliar countryside in the hope of discovering new markets for his goods. He ended the first day by spending the night at an inn located in a tree. After traveling the next day, the same thing happened. Same inn, same customers, same barmaid. The third day was a repeat of the earlier two. Finally, he arrived home. How did this happen? Cue the scary music. What happened when he recounted his adventure to Tallis?

The frantic scribblings of a novelist ***** This chapter is the first of several observations related to the lives of a novelist or a poet. Tallis offers contrasts as he pities the unfortunate novelist. Poets are superior in their social lives and sufficiency of income. Tallis said so. This section and the following five sections explore the world of writing. Quotes that stick in my mind follow.

There in Black and White ***** One of my pet peeves is discovering that after I download a Kindle book, 20% of it is devoted to promotion. Tallis points this out with “There is a feeling amongst publishers that the reader doesn’t really want the book they’ve purchased, but instead in point of fact wishes to peruse an assortment of other books that the publisher has available. Pictures of these and even sample chapters can in extreme cases double the size of the book.” (Kindle location 181).

Learning from others ***** Writing books from the comfort of home while in any state of dress and personal hygiene imaginable can bring instant and immense wealth. All one must do is follow the advice of proven authors. Tallis looks at the advisors as “a community of writers writing books about how to sell books that were bought largely by people who were interested in writing books about selling books.” (Kindle location 244).

Nobody does it like that anymore ***** Tallis does not dismiss time tested good advice. Departing from tongue-in-cheek humor, Tallis notes, “Writing is just another craft like joinery or metalwork, the more you do it, the better you get.” (Kindle location 271).

The uncompromising principles of the successful writer ***** Tallis consults a printer to find out the kind of literature that sells best. “This is what feeds the press Tallis my boy, cheap stories of forbidden vampire love, or demon love, or love with a score of fantastical, imaginary, or hopefully extinct creatures. (Kindle location 331).

A distinct shortage of assets ***** Many authors assure readers that reviews are vital to an author’s success. How can an author get reviews quickly? Tallis would “ instruct (the printer’s) domestic staff and secretary to write glowing reviews of his work under false names” (Kindle location 401).

Subsequent stories address other topics as Tallis leaves the subject of writing out of fear of appearing maudlin. Any would-be writers should continue reading the rest of this collection to pull themselves out of any depression caused by an examination of prospects for fame and riches in their chosen profession.

At the end of this Tallis Steelyard set of musings, I am left with only one question not addressed in this examination of the world of writers. Why does an author choose to sell a novel for USD 1.26?”