Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Green agenda – choosing a car

It may seem perverse to look at choosing a car as analogous to Transformational Government, but when thinking about changing my car I realised that it illustrates that focussing on the right holistic outcome can result in apparently illogical choices.

All the publicity is about fuel efficiency and low emissions, with small cars and hybrid cars receiving tax advantages and freedom from congestion charge. There has been some recent debate on keeping your current car longer, but often that is balanced by comments about the increasing emissions from older cars.

In my experience big engine / quality cars tend to be used for more years / miles that smaller more apparently economical models, my current car (a 2 litre Saab) is almost seven years old and after 142k miles is still performing efficiently (with fuel consumption pretty much the same as when new). One only has to look at used car adverts to appreciate that older Mercedes and BMWs etc. go on for years longer that many other cars. So in minimising my impact on the environment I’ll probably choose a relatively powerful Saab again.

There is a balance of economy, predicted life and the emissions caused during the manufacture of a larger car are greater. I’d favour incentives based on the holistic lifetime impact rather than the more easily measured emissions figure. In the same way measuring how long it takes to handle a telephone call or respond to a letter says little meaningful about the service level the citizen experiences.

Disability badges

Why are Disability badges issued by local authorities, if qualification for a DWP benefit is a pre-condition why not have them managed by the DWP as part of the benefits process (they are after all a benefit). This is the sort of citizen centric change I'd like to see coming out of the implementation of Transformational Government.

To make usage simple why not have two forms of the badge, one for parking at home (in which case it should be fixed to the vehicle) and the other for travel e.g. shopping etc. This would enable the rules on use to be simplified and the probability of error in use to be dramatically reduced.

RFID is a proven technology now and there don't appear to be any major privacy problems here so why not include RFID tags and make the badges machine readable (but only an identifying number). Having photographs on badges would be unnecessary as it should be replaced by having central storage of data on the holder to enable parking managers to deal with misuse, saving inconvenience and cost in the processes for issue and update of disabled badges. Having RFID could also enable the problem of stolen / copied badges to be managed more effectivly

Monday, 8 October 2007

Claiming benefits

The sheer complexity of benefits regimes (it can take 45 minutes to put in necessary details into a benefits calculator) makes it really difficult for claimants to understand what they are due and also makes it expensive for the government to administer it.

In my experience a key reason reason for the complexity is that a persons benefits are the result of their interaction with a host of different products with slightly different rules. The amusing thing is that a lot of the discrepancies between products are purely accidental and result from them being developed by different people in isolation.

One answer is to look at the benefits from a claiments perspective and change / harmonise the rules to achieve the holistic consequences desired. The sort of rule to look at would be what is meant by income and how is it measured (weekly, monthly etc. and in advance or on past history, NB I can't see a good reason for there being more than one definition (and the safest definition is one that looks at history). As most income needs to be declared to HMRC and most payroll is done by software one could, in time, arrange for automatic capture where the claimant agrees the loss of privacy is balanced by faster / more accurate benefit payments (but whilst there are different definitions I can't see payroll software suppliers agreeing).