We're taking a bit of a breather while the world rearranges its underpants. Meanwhile, the other blog is here.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Drowning by numbers

Milton's been going through the budget figures. Better him than me, I get depressed too easily. We both knew that despite T.Aldous' constant protestations of poverty the library service consistently underspends its budget; he's shocked to find out just by how much.

"I won't tell you all the details," he says.

"I especially don't want to know about the six-figure underspend in staffing," I reply.

"How do you know about that?"

"Simple mathematics: leaving aside all the confusion as to how many library assistants posts are vacant or are being filled by temps there are six senior posts that were left open for more than two years up to last autumn and three posts still vacant that have been left open more than a year."

"You really don't want to know about the underspend in the IT budget either, do you?"

"No. Especially as over the past decade I've been led to believe there isn't a budget."

"It isn't as big as the staffing underspend."

"That's reassuring."

"I don't understand why the central servicing charge is so enormous, though."

"Ah, that comes from the decision to make the direct labour organisation an arms-length company. In its first operating year it made a two million pound loss, which rather defeated the object, so to avoid a repetition all the client departments' charges went up to make up the shortfall, with yearly incremental increases to keep pace with inflation."

"That would explain it. I wondered why we were paying more to administer the contract than we were on contracted services. Here's one you'll like: there's sixty thousand pounds in one staff budget heading that's there solely to be presented as a saving at the end of the financial year: every year sixty thousand goes in, every year that sixty thousand is taken off us. It's actually headed 'projected saving.'"

"What's the point of that? Why don't they just not give us that sixty thousand in the first place?"

"The danger is that if they did that, next year they'd still take sixty thousand off us but we wouldn't have that money to give up."

"You've been working here too long already: you're starting to understand how the buggers think."

"Well, you can't be too careful. I think the point is that they can use this figure to demonstrate that we're spending enough on staff to satisfy the Audit Commission."

"Ever wonder why our cost per issue is so much higher than Bencup's or Pardendale's?"

"Makes you think."

"This is it..."

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