Who needs conspiracies when you have the Local Government Chronicle? Who would have thought that ‘low traffic neighbourhoods’ would be a good idea, let alone that officers in every council would actively pursue them widely across their areas?
This is just the latest runaway bandwagon. I lose track of how many there have been over the last decade. Sometimes they are cancerous growths uncontrollably erupting out of a passing thought from government. Sometimes they are homegrown from the fevered imagination of a bored local government officer. All it takes is for the idea to be given a name and a supporting article and then to be circulated. The original context will soon be forgotten as the idea, which is now a technical term, takes on a life of its own. The Local Government Chronicle or any of several niche sectorial publications is a good way to publicise an idea to seek validation from ones peers. A suggestion may be read as a command. The very act of publication lends authority, which the idea might or might not deserve.
These initiatives I have in mind are not the political ones dreamed up by politicians making a political points in spite of the needs of their residents, or seeking a few inches in the local paper. Those are well known and obvious. The pernicious bandwagon ideas are those invented by administrators themselves, local and national, and spread like the plague across the country.
An idea which is current will be considered. It is a principle of local administration in particular that if an idea is current there is a duty, considered as a legal duty, to consider it and try to fit it in somehow. Opposition from politicians or residents can be dismissed as ignorant: they have not read the paper, after all.
The point is, that ideas circulated amongst councils can be good ides that answer many a problem, the circulation of which is of the greatest benefit to localities everywhere. They can also be very bad ideas, just written in convincing language, which will cause endless damage. They may also be ideas suitable at one time and in one place, for a particular concept, the originator or which deserves praise, but which in another place or context is a disastrous initiative. There is no duty to further them or even to consider them: only a duty to serve the residents competently and to their benefit.
It takes a nimble imagination to distinguish between the appropriate and the madcap, and administrative officers are not known for their nimbleness of mind (for reasons much explored in other articles here, and which will be again no doubt). They should stop and climb off a bandwagon going the wrong way