Saturday, November 03, 2007
Her Majesty's Courts' Service (at least in the London region - I don't know about anywhere else) has decided to direct its energies and much of its management's time and effort to obtaining the Charter Mark. The Charter Mark is a relic of the John Major years and was born of the same desperate mindset as the Cones Hotline (remember that?). It struck me then as a tired gimmick and I have not changed my view since. Its principal function is to enhance the career progression of the managers involved and to add gloss to their CVs.
This nonsense will soak up management resources as well as many thousands of pounds of hard cash that is desperately needed elsewhere in the service. Staff are already being encouraged to hang on to any 'evidence' that some court user, somewhere, has been pleased with the service he has received. New noticeboards are appearing on which morale-boosting Charter Mark stuff will be posted, stuff that will be greeted with the weary cynicism that usually greets whizzy new ideas from HMCS.
Meanwhile, at the sharp end, many courts now have to manage without an usher. The usher is the first point of contact when defendants lawyers and witnesses arrive at court. Most of them do a superb job, dealing sensitively with people who can be stressed or just plain difficult. Dealing day by day as they do with court users they know more about real customer (customers? what are they buying?) service than all the managers put together. They are not paid very much, unlike the cohorts of consultants and clipboard-holders who will 'work' on Charter Mark applications.
I hope that I will still feel this cross when I go to the glossy reception at which taxpayers' wine and canapés are served to accompany the smug and self-congratulatory speeches and presentations when the awards are made. Unfortunately decent wine and Prue Leith's catering can have a corrupting influence. Cross your fingers for me.