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John Bone: For once, I’m on the side of bureaucracy

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It goes without saying that the education of children is a paramount duty of parents and the state. But in order to achieve it, both parents and state must behave reasonably, not make that education unreasonably hard to reach. This is why we should examine carefully the case of the Soham mother, Anna Davies, newly arrived from Northamptonshire with her three school-age children and a fourth aged only nine weeks. Miss Davies applied for three school places on August 7 and was dismayed when two were still unplaced as the school year began.

The county point out that many schools cannot cope with short-notice applications when staff are on holiday. Nor can the authority act when independent academies are specified for a child.

These points seem to me to be part of a reasonable reply to complaints which are, in themselves, well intentioned but perhaps misplaced.

It is not often I speak up for bureaucracy but people in offices are not always smug, careless, callous and unreasonable and Miss Davies, motivated by an admirable desire to get the best for her kids, should consider the possibility that the bureaucrats share her ambition so far as it is in their scope and they are given a fair chance.

The money lost when thieves forced their way into Stetchworth community centre and stole a number of charity boxes may, for all we know, have been trifling. But the knock-on effect, making the centre shut for a day, and loss of confidence among older, nervous people is hard to calculate. The gang came by car which may imply they were not impoverished. So what, other than pig-ignorant greed motivated them? And could they ever understand the harm they did by what they probably see as a trivial lark?

As I remark elsewhere this week, I do not often speak up for bureaucrats and it is small wonder considering the daft tangles they can create. Consider the comic saga of the Beck Row bollards which is tormenting residents of Holmsey Green as council workers erroneously erect them, erroneously increase them and seem incapable of getting a simple job done. Suffolk County Council say sorry but they couldn’t comment because everyone involved was away. I have one word for them: Bollards!

Now Cambs coppers are to use spy drones to fight crime, it may be only a matter of time before vociferous proponents of visible policing will demand scores of these pesky contraptions, filling our skies to make us “feel safe.” The illusion that a visible police presence makes a blind bit of real difference will not be questioned as the cry goes up “Give us more drones!” Lord forbid Suffolk swallows the same story,

Quaint timbered barns have long been coveted by developers who turn them into superb historical homes. But our pages had at least two cases last week of more modern dutch barns, even of concrete construction, being offered for country living. For many years the planners have permitted agricultural buildings on sites denied to any other developer. There they now stand in superb locations often in enviable isolation. Does this explain what seems to be happening now and, if so, are we to see homes springing up in surprising places?

You are most unlikely to find me using the impressive exercise machines at Newmarket’s new gym at Studlands Park. I get all the exercise I require just struggling to get out of bed. But I greet Asgard Fines and wish it every success because it represents local enterprise by local people for local people. Outside enterprises are always seeking ways to get rich at our expense. My firm instinct in all things is to keep the money in the town.

Can’t help admiring the sarky approach taken by Mrs J Maddox of Freshfields adding her weight to getting a cinema for Newmarket. “I can’t help but think,” she says, “that if horses went to the cinema we’d have ten by now.” Trouble is we’d be stuck with endless showings of “National Velvet,” “Black Beauty” and “War Horse.”