Rules are for ....
Bureaucratic inertia isn't "self limiting" - the propensity of bureaucrats to endlessly subdivide issues and gold plate / embroider / wantonly overexpand their tasks is as old as civilisation itself - The Romans started it ... maybe?
This fact of life is something that regularly requires attention in the world of public administration if our public services are not to descend into an impenetrable morass of Japanese Knotweed - a lack of administrative "garden maintenance" would result in public services becoming utterly dysfunctional - hindering progress and increasing costs to the public purse.
So, a while back (2010) some senior British bureaucrats, led by Adrian Penfold of British Land - acknowledged that administration of governmental decision taking was becoming unwieldy, chaotic and constipated and it was decided to address parts of the situation with a new set of rules which had the force of law. One clear intent was to force bureaucracies to arrive at decisions within a fixed time frame and not to allow them to spin out things as far as funds were available and beyond anybody but their own interpretation of common sense...
This recent effort at bureaucratic scrub clearance / purgative dosing addresses issues mostly in non-planning consents and goes by the name of The Penfold Rules. The Rules are incorporated mainly into two Acts of Parliament and impose a 91 day guillotine on decision taking by government bodies.
The Environment Agency are apparently participating in "Streamlining Permitting and Planning" by making the process "simpler and quicker" in line with Penfold Rules.(copy here in case that page goes "missing")
It will not come I suspect as any surprise to readers of this blog (yes, all three of you) that the Environment Agency regarded this as intolerable restraint and have chosen it would seem to re-interpret the law as it applies (or rather doesn't apply - in their view) to them. They seem to regard statute as a fashion accessory and pay lip service to it - whilst simultaneously indulging in overt deviance.
Our hydro project agent recently received a communication from the EA which informed us that as far as they were concerned - Penfold Rules didn't apply to them.... Well, they are four times beyond Penfold and three times beyond the old Water Act time windows - so what the hell... might as well just try and bluster it eh? Apparently....water licences now deemed "too complex" for Penfold Rules......
We have an official (Ben Johnston) telling us :
Hydropower determinations require particularly complex checks and balances and because of this they are not included in our 13 week Penfold determination target. (email to Brendan Barrow of eWaterPower 03 May 2013)
Judicial Review Consent Order and "without further delay" ?? - Byzantine doesn't even come close.
Couldn't make it up eh?
Penfold unfolded some might say. Turning rules into "best effort targets"... - surely not? It would seem that The Environment Agency are stoutly resisting these nasty Penfold Rules - they've even "disappeared" their Penfold Consultation web page (as of May 09 2013 this is what you get - in case a page actually comes back)
We've put together a short overview of "Penfold" on the North Mill web site.