Shepley on ... words that kill confidence

People say the strangest things - sometimes funny, sometimes downright scary.

Take the spokesman for Donald Trump over the local authority's refusal of his golf complex plans: "There is a view that we are arrogant. It may be incomprehensible to smaller minds, but we have always set high standards. We presented a plan and hoped that they could open their minds, but it was too much for them."

While I include this simply for its entertainment value, two other examples from recent months are really scary. A spokesman for the DfT said: "The reality is that only six per cent of the population travels on the railways. So why should people who don't use railways regularly fund those who do?" Another civil servant was quoted in an Institute for Public Policy and Research report: "The mantra of what works is often undermined by the fact that we don't know what works and even when we know something doesn't we go ahead and do it anyway."

If that is really the mindset at the DfT, no wonder transport policy is in a mess. The sad thing is that, rereading his words, the author would probably have to ask what was wrong. "Why should people who don't use the NHS fund those who do?" I would counter, confident that post-credit crunch such a dangerously left-wing sentiment might not be laughed out of court.

The third remark comes as no surprise to me, having worked in the civil service, and probably not to any reader who has followed the evolution of the Planning Bill. Quartermaine the Mighty will no doubt put it right in due course. But for those hoping that the Treasury will pull us out of recession, weep gently into the long dark night.

- Chris Shepley is principal of Chris Shepley Planning and a former chief planning inspector for England and Wales.


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