Saturday, 8 February 2014

Weathering the VfM decision-making storm in the South-West

My heart goes out to those in the south-west who have suffered from the ravages of weather and short-term decision-making. It seems quite easy, from afar, to blur the catastrophe of what seems to be two separate problems. One being the battering from the storms which are beyond our control, the second being the flooding which does seem to have had some antecedent in human decision-making.

For their visits to the Somerset Levels somebody took the decision to buy green wellies for David Cameron and red-toed Argyll boots for Chris Smith. You can just visualise an episode of 'The Thick of It' considering the various pros and cons of health and safety needs, being able to avoid slipping in front of the media and even whether trousers could be tucked in without getting wet. Of course those living on the Somerset Levels have more pressing purchases on their mind, for example, the need to buy sandbags.

But somebody also took the decision as to what value for money criteria were applied in evaluating the request from Edwin White last year asking for match-funding for dredging to prevent flooding. It can only be assumed the architect of the criteria is not one of those who lives in the Somerset Levels. From the remoteness of a dry Whitehall office establishing such criteria and weights, against a background of civil service job losses, may well be a purely academic exercise as opposed to one which may impact on real people.

Then consider the decision-making of Sam Notaro (that's his home in the picture). Sam invested £1m constructing a 5ft flood defence around his own house. Apparently still in the house, managing breaches in the defences when they occur. He has also taken the additional precaution of wrapping some of the house with polythene. I think Sam has made a good assessment of VfM criteria and hopefully he has demonstrated, through his own risk management, his competence as a potential builder for others.

There's something strange happens when evaluation criteria are established. There's always an element of subjectivity. There may also be an element of risk aversion. Perhaps some political pandering. It does strike me that some may be better left to evaluating wellington boot purchase options than anything of significance.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed the post, that guy's flood defences are impressive. Good risk management indeed, how come nobody else does this!? It was, eventually, going to happen,and at some point, you can't blame everyone else. I wonder if wellies are more, or less expensive in that part of the world at the moment?