Thursday, 17 February 2011

Littlejohn and 'non-jobs'

Richard Littlejohn dedicated the main part of his column on Tuesday to moaning about 'council non-jobs':

For the past 20-odd years, this column has made a decent living documenting the insanity and waste in Britain’s Town Halls.

That's an admission that he has been churning out the same old stuff for two decades. He said much the same on 21 September last year:

For the past 15 years, this column has made a good living out of elf 'n' safety.

His second sentence is equally telling:

If all else failed, there was always the Guardian jobs pages on a Wednesday to dig me out of a hole.

Quality investigative journalism there. In any case, who'd be so silly as to advertise in that newspaper?


(Read some of the applications for the above here and here)

Littlejohn then launches into a tirade against 'non-jobs', including such claims as:

These days, ‘climate change’ is the new Aids.

Yet, as Primly Stable has pointed out, regular readers of Littlejohn might recognise a lot of this, as he's said much of it before.

For example, he first mentioned 'community walking co-ordinators' on 18 August 2009, then put it in his 2010 book Littlejohn's House of Fun. They got another mention when the book was serialised in the Mail on 28 March 2010 and once again on Tuesday.

Once again on Tuesday in a column about people being paid lots of money for doing pointless jobs...

But one of Littlejohn's claims really stands out:

Haringey hired someone to give hopscotch lessons to Asian women.

Did they really? Full Fact gives its verdict:

Back in 1995, former Conservative Party Chairman Brian Mawhinney regaled his Party’s Conference with a story of how taxpayer’s money was being similarly spent on hopscotch for Asian women.

In fact, it later transpired that the public money had been given to the Hopscotch Asian Women’s Centre, a well-respected voluntary organisation that deals with domestic violence, language and integration issues in Camden, which neighbours Haringey.

So could a similar misunderstanding have been made by Richard Littlejohn?

We contacted Hanringey Borough Council to ask about the mysterious job, who weren’t aware of one fitting Mr Littlejohn’s description. We’ve also tried to get in touch with Mr Littlejohn himself to find out more about how he came across this vacancy, but have yet to hear back from him.

But the Hopscotch Asian Women's Centre did advertise for a management position in May last year.

So whilst as yet we’re unable to say with complete certainty that Haringey haven’t been engaging the services of Asian hopscotch specialists, given the claim’s history and the proximity of an Asian women’s voluntary centre named Hopscotch to Haringey, you might be advised to treat this particular “non-job” with some scepticism.

33 comments:

  1. To be fair to him, he is only commenting that these are "non-jobs", quite literally, because they don't exist.

    He is a satirist, right? He wasn't being serious?

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  2. Most of the other things he goes on about only exist between his ears too. For a good laugh at RLJ's expense I highly recommend nipping over to Amazon and reading the reviews of his "books". Fair warms the heart....

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  3. "Climate Change is the new AIDS"????

    But he doesn't beleive in Climate Change and thinks its a lefty liberal thing that Governments are wasting time with.

    What the hell did he think of Aids in the 1980's? :\

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  4. Again, to be fair to him, he is absolutely right (hopscotch excepted!).

    A cursory surf around local councils (Labour and Conservative) websites will throw up some bewildering job titles that insinuate - certainly to me - more of some job creation exercise rather than performance of any useful function.

    I know hammering Littlejohn is a perennial favourite on this site - indeed, one might observe you've made agood living out of it over the last couple years :) - but I'm not sure what the actual point of today's piece is. Do you disagree carte blanche with his assertion, or are you just content to cherry pick his fuck-uppery?

    Clearly, LJ has been out of order re:hopscotch, but I don't think any sane person will disagree that there has been a explosion of 'non-jobs'(there, I said it!) in local councils throughout the UK in the last 10 years.

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  5. Anonymous (08:46) - There are two fairly clear points made above, so I'm not sure why you're struggling to understand it. One is that Littlejohn churns out the same old stuff on the same old topics - sometimes repeating the same claims four times (which makes you wonder, if these 'non-jobs' are so common, why can't he find new ones to talk about?). The second point is that one of his claims appears to be completely wrong.

    And he does have a habit of listing things that he claims are appalling but aren't always strictly accurate (see http://tabloid-watch.blogspot.com/2010/03/oh-richard.html) so I wouldn't rely on his word that they are exactly what he says they are.

    Also, I'm not sure just going by a job title is really the best way to decide if a job is 'useful' or not.

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  6. Anonymous - what exactly is a non job?

    Writing hack columns for a racist newspaper that does nothing to improve the quality of anyone's lives?

    I'm an advertising copywriter. I enjoy writing, but i expect some would claim i have a non job, after all, it doesn't exactly save lives either.

    But working for an organisation that provides health advice, support for sufferers of DV and education to women in the asian community? i'd say that's quite an important job!

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  7. Not agreeing doesn't mean not understanding, Mr MacGuffin.

    Firstly, sure, he regurgiates similar expressions. I'm not sure why that's a 'crime' against journalism in itself to be honest. I find your logic also flawed - it's exactly BECAUSE 'non-jobs' continue to flourish that he feels it necessary to keep pointing it out. It's not as if he keeps banging on about the SAME four jobs, is it?

    Secondly, yes, you're absolutely right, one of his claims is - quite laughably - wrong. I'll also accept that much of what he writes is also outlandishy misrepresented.

    However, this in itself doesn't invalidate this particular point in entirety.

    I'm a great supporter of this blog (call me a fan, if you like) and I enjoy your dissections ennormously. I also envy your patience - with such flagrant abuse of journalism perpetrated on a daily basis, I'd have given up long before now.

    However, notwithstanding this, I think you've led with your chin on this one. You've picked a one floating turd out of an ocean of honey. I see the Mail have now illustrated such 'non' jobs on their front page, and unless you can prove they are all figments of their imagination, I'd have to say I agree with LJs overall point here.

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  8. Sian,

    I don't think it stretches common sense too much to recognise what LJ terms as 'non-jobs', although I agree that peoples perceptions make some controversial.

    LJs colummns may offend you, but he gets paid by the enterprise funded by the cover price. No harm, no foul, as far as I can see. If you're daft enough to pay for the Daily Mail, then you deserve what you get. Besides, you'd be pissed if he got paid out of your tax the same way he gets pissed over some of these jobs?! Also, I'm sure some Mail Readers will say that he does indeed improve the quality of lives.

    I was a copywriter also for many years. Of course it in itself isn't a non-job, but I occasionally found myself producing copy for offical organisations etc that I considered totally bogus. Not so much that I refused the cheques though :) call me a hypocrite - it's an easy charge!

    Clearly, I'm not suggesting that one must be a brain surgeon or a fireman to have a job that is considered 'valuable', but I have a hard time accepting allocation of the best part of 30 grand of your tax money to fund a 'walking co-ordinator'.

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  9. @Anonymous
    Being an apologist for Richard Coeur de Legume is a non-job.

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  10. "I have a hard time accepting allocation of the best part of 30 grand of your tax money to fund a 'walking co-ordinator'."

    but what does a "walking co-ordnator" do? it's easy to point and laugh at a silly job title but you really can't dismiss it as a "non job" untill you know what it actually entails.

    all littljohn is doing here is laughing at job titles, and as the hopscotch example neatly demonstrates what something is called and what it is are two very different things.

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  11. Yeah, I find the word 'apologist' a very over-used accusation on here. To express a mildly contrary opinion does not an apologist make.

    I take the point about the silly title, although I think your point is naive. I doubt if I could write a job description for a walking co-ordinator and make it appear to be worth 30K...and I'm a specialist in marketing communications!

    I think he's entitled to laugh at such. If I met a 'walking co-ordinator' at a party, I'd laugh at them too. And I'm pretty sure I'd be shaking my head in exasperation even after they attempted to justify it as credible employment.

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  12. Here's the walking co-ordinator job description:

    'An opportunity has arisen for an individual to take on the existing successful Health Walks Programme in Islington that has been continuously developing since 2002. The programme currently attracts 300 users per week and supports 25 volunteer walk leaders. The Walking Coordinator will be key in ensuring this scheme continues to thrive by developing new walks, working with partners and supporting and recruiting a team of volunteer walk leaders.

    The successful candidate will be expected to have:

    • Experience of project management including producing reports, delivering presentations, event planning and monitoring of budgets.
    • Experience in outreach work or with community groups and their development in a voluntary or paid capacity
    • The ability to work as a team and independently
    • Awareness of healthy walking initiatives
    • The ability to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing with a wide variety of people including partners, funders and the local community.
    • Experience of working with and recruiting volunteers in an inner city environment'

    So, encouraging health initiatives in inner cities, encouraging people to get out and about, making a difference to the local community - all a load of silliness isn't it? total waste of time.

    Of course i'd get pissed off if Littlejohn was paid out of the public purse. But he isn't. I don;t get annoyed that people who do jobs to help the public and support the local community get paid out of taxes. i think you've made rather a non point tbh.

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  13. Thanks Sian.
    The walking co-ordinator job is part of "Walking for Health - Natural England".
    Advertised as £31,935 pro-rata for 17.5 hours per week. In other words, £15,967.50 per year.
    http://www.wfh.naturalengland.org.uk/walkfinder/london/islington-walks

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  14. You reckon the description above - no point of which has any real measurable context and is couched in typical HR-speak - is worth 30k a year? In the real world, all this job boils down to is someone to babysit (predominantly) senior citizens on walking trips through an urban area a few times a week.

    2. The principle of the 'initiaive' is not the issue. The issue is the fact that someone has seen fit to create a designated post (the name of which is woefully under-stated if we are the believe the description) at a massively over-inflated rate to staff it.

    Of course I'd support people who do jobs to help the public, but this is stretching credibility to breaking point on that score. But hey, it's your money - you're happy to pay for 30 people to do 30 jobs that could be done by one person - that's your affair.

    Sure, Littlejohn's paid privately. You started by saying HE had a non-job, which may be true, but his(non)job can be justified on the grounds it is at least subject to market forces. Our walking co-ordinator's position here, is simply based on having a pot of money that needs to be wasted somehwere lest it be removed. The 'use it or lose it' principle.

    And the real shits & giggles part of this is that it's YOUR money. I'd go out and buy a new pair of Timberland's this weekend if I were you -go and get your money's worth rambling around Islington all day.

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  15. It's worth mentioning that the Walking Co-Ordinator isn't paid over 30K. It's a part-time position so that salary is pro-rata.

    Furthermore, there's a story on the Mail site now about the non-jobs and it squarely lays the blame at Labour's door in the headline, yet the first two responsible councils I looked up (Medway and Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead) are both Conservative controlled.

    If this is an actual story worth covering and there's serious wastage on 'non-jobs' in our town halls then it's only fair that they should criticise the responsible councils and not simply, lazily blame Labour.

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  16. That's cool Anonymous. When you're old and living in the city, and can't go out and enjoy a walk in the spring fresh air, because there's no support services there to look after and give older people a bit more quality of life, at least you'll know that you're not wasting other tax payers' money.

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  17. Yes, Hutcho - true. Although, you could still build an argument that its a 32k a year post. If it does go full -time, then bam! 32K please. I don't like seeing pro-rata rates - the job is the job. If it's 17.5 hours a week, it's 17.5 hours a week, end of. But that's beside the point.

    So, 16k for what, 3.5 hours a day? And what? Not bad for bimbling about. Also, as an aside, it's a 35-hour week at this council - 12.5% less than your average working man. Ace!

    Conservative/Labour controlled councils? Yes, quite right, good point. I recognise the whole conservative/labour wastage - that's why I explicitly noted it in my opening post for fear of getting hammered on exactly those grounds.

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  18. Here's a good non-job for you Daily mail journalists over piad ignorant hacks who write racist, inaccurate garbage and get paid obscene amounts of money for it. There's a load of non jobs for you. Littlebrain is an idiot who spreads poisonous lies and garbage about people and helps no one outside of his sad, bitter, nasty groupies who clog up the comments section below his so called reports

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  19. This piece highlight how RLJ (and Anonymous poster up there) just read the job title on an advert and draw their own conclusions. No amount of research or fact-checking is required. Just spew your thoughts onto a keyboard.

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  20. Professional people in Islington, who have dogs as pets, are missing out on a great idea.
    With a dog, there are food and vet fees and you have to pay someone to walk it at a minimum of £15 for 45 mins.
    Why not sell the dog and get a granny?
    Grannies get a govt pension and a bus pass so, there's no need for you to spend any of you hard-earned money on them. In fact, you might make of profit by having a granny.
    Walks for grannies are provided free by the Council and once granny has passed the age of self-mobility, she can be packed off to a residential care home and you can get another one.

    The idea above is pro bono and has not been tested on Marketing Bogons or any similar parasites.

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  21. Thanks Ian - the most ironic post of the day. If you had done some fact-checking yourself rather than spewing first, you can quite clearly see that my conclusions are absolutely correct. Another taxpayer happy to be getting screwed! Good on yer!

    And, if it were possible, Anon (14:43) is even more ironic. A ranter moaning about a ranter.

    Sian - it doesn't have to be about absolutes. You make it sound that I'm cruel and heartless, denying everybody everything. All I'm saying is that these services (for all demographics) can be provided in a far more efficient manner than simply throwing 17.5K (plus all the expenditure that the incumbent will generate - media, etc) at it. I agree with the principle, but it's a non-job, completely and utterly.

    On a more personal note, look at it from a copywriter's POV. How banal a title is 'walking co-ordinator'? How well does this sell to the sceptics? At least put some spin on it and call it something that sounds halfway credible. It might then avoid us cynics' bullshit radar. I reckon Islington council could benefit from some good copywriting advice...:)

    Have a good weekend everyone. I'm off, believe it or not, for a walk around my city. Un aperitivo, then tapas! :)

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  22. Another Tory minister has shown himself up as a Littlejohn reader. Whichever one it was, he was pontificating about Council non jobs on Eddie Mair's little show this afternoon (Friday) and listed some of these "non-jobs". Including "walking co-ordinators". Who are, contrary to whatever if is Littlejohn and the Tory party imagine, actually doing a splendid job encouraging people to get out and, well, walk. For their health. To counter, among other things, obesity, another subject on which Littlejohn and his faithful readers in the Toy Party like to pontificate on.

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  23. @Anonymous
    In what way is it 'bimbling about'? If you think they are simply going for walks you haven't really read the description which shows the job to be a combination of public health community outreach and administration. The actual walking is done by volunteers (for free!)
    Not that 'babysitting (predominantly) senior citizens' would be unworthy at all; is it the fact that they are older that makes it silly?

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  24. 'Bimbling about' is an expression for walking. This job is co-ordinating walking 'initiatives'. How is this difficult to understand?

    You may have hit the nail on the head though - if it is indeed a combo of public health and administration, it can be serviced by existing resources, quite comfortably. Why create a specific post and throw 17K a year at something the office junior can 'administrate' for one hour a day?

    What happens when Islington have some more money to waste, and they come up with a Tai Chi initiative, or a Outdoor Yoga initiative? They gonna create a 17k p.a. post for those too?

    @SAM - Older people - no, that's not what makes it silly. I was just noting that this is the demographic most likely to use this, er, 'service'. What makes it silly is the fact that it is silly.

    Genuinely, I reckon all of this opposition I'm facing is more out of dislike for Littlejohn rather than out of pure common sense. If a more credible commentator had raised the issue, I think you'd all agree with it. Frankly, I can't see for the life of me how this walking co-ordinator position can be in any way, shape or form NOT be considered a total piss-take on the Islington tax-payer.

    I would like to apologise for seemingly picking on this particular scheme. It was the first one that I saw. My point is that there are equally useless schemes in councils around the country. It makes me laugh when people try to pin the closure of libraries or sacking of lollipop ladies on the tories, when councils are still busy generating ideas of this banality.

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  25. Yes but councils are using the cover of ending "non jobs" as an excuse to axe genuine services. In the same way the government wants to call all benefit claimants feckless scroungers.

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  26. Anon (19.25) - you make some bold assertions in your posts. I happen to analyse business costs for a living (investment banker - a non-job if ever there was one!) and note you've made some standard errors of analysis:

    1) you equate spending with waste, but "minimum cost"is not a meaningful aim of any enterprise (commercial or public sector) otherwise a "do-nothing"approach would be optimal! The point is to maximise the ratio of good stuff (revenues, healthcare, public services etc) to bad stuff (costs, negative externalities, inconvenience etc). I can assure you that the council will have had to do a cost benefit analysis before placing this position.

    2) instead of looking at the cost per employee, you need to look at the cost per unit of output and compare it to the alternative (eg, 17k a year on a"walker" to help 50 old people might be far less than sending nurses to each old person's house to check up on them and ensure they're not ill or unable to look after themselves)

    3) you have the odd beliefthat costs are easy to cut and that everyone else is being inefficient - if it were that easy to just reassign existing employees to new tasks, companies would never hire - why do people always think "I'm incredibly busy at work but that guy over there looks like he could work harder"?

    4) I can think of few sillier ways to cut costs than to fire staff who have silly job titles. or maybe you'd prefer councils to hire someone to think up better job titles for people?! ;-)

    In short, you seem to be saying that rlj had a point to make about public spending, failed to make the point well, couldn't back the point up with any proof and made up stories that he claimed were factually accurate, but we should give him the benefit because you think he could have made the point properly if he'd actually tried. Sorry to call you names, but the name for that really is "Apologist", even if you don't like it.

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  27. Elegir - I acknowledge your response. However, I agree with the sum total of none of it. Your assertions about my assertions are quite wrong, and you've ascribed such to me that I didn't actually state. It is truly a unique method of debate.

    Feel free to label me how you like. I must confess I do enjoy the concept of 'apologism'. It's not that I don't like it, more that it seems to be the '-ist' most in vogue in this decade. From the Fascist 30s to the Racist 90s and the Islamist noughties, we're just not happy until we have an '-ist' to bully, are we?

    So, you carry on. Feel free to label me how you like. I'd say (again) it was your tax-money that is being wasted, but I doubt that's applicable in your case. If you'll allow me an assumption of my own, imagine you've exploited a number of tax loopholes in order to keep all your monstrous investment-banker bonuses free of it in the first instance, and you're happy to leave people like Sian picking up the tab.

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  28. @Anonymous 19Feb2011, 15:37
    If the noughties was the decade of the Islamist and the current "'-st' most in vogue this decade" is Apologist, in what part of space/time are you?
    I followed your advice and tried imagining that I've exploited a number of tax loopholes but, it hasn't improved my wellbeing one bit. Thankfully, no-one was affected by me fantasising about the weird religious belief system of the hyper-rich capital-ist.
    I watched "Citizen Kane" last night.

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  29. I'm afraid those non-sequiturs are beyond me. However, I consider myself to be the most unfashionable of -ist among the rather warped world-view of most commentators - the realist.

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  30. It does not follow that a part-time job will become a full-time job - Non sequitur from Anonymous 18 February 2011 14:39
    It does not follow that if Islington Council get more money, they will employ Tai Chi and Yoga instructors - Non sequitur from Anonymous 18 February 2011 19:25

    A realist would realise, at the start, that £32k pro rata for 17.5 hrs equals £17k.
    A realist would realise that when in a hole, it is not a good idea to keep digging.

    Unfashionable -ists: archaist, anachronist, obsoletist.

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  31. No, it does not follow that a part-time job will become full-time, but I never said it did. I said 'if' it did. This is why pro-rata rates exist. Nor did I say they will employ other instructors in the event of more money (although they'd find some way to waste it). No, those were what we normaly call 'examples' to illustrate a point. They weren't meant to be taken as definitive statements. I thought that was self-evident, but never mind.

    As well as Latin, let's take a look at Maths. I think you'll find that the rate based on 17.5 hours a week is 16K, not 17K, given that the pro-rate rate a year is exactly double. Half of 32 is 16, or it was when I was at school.

    You are right though, in that none of this is furthering the discussion. If Mr. MacGuffin will accept this as my last statement, I shall happily put down my spade.

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  32. Whoops! I pressed the wrong number key. I read Nye Zwerk's posting of 18 February 2011 12:46 before sending my contribution.
    A few weeks ago, someone pointed out on a Daily Mail comments page that 8% equals 1 in 12.5. The poster did not comment on anything else but, his lesson in basic arithmetic got hundreds of red arrows.

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  33. BBC Covered these stories today with this article, quite interesting.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12549785

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