back to article UK plc 'needs a chief engineer' - also a chief trick-cyclist

Britain should appoint an official chief engineer to ensure technical talent lurking within the civil service is put to best use, according to a new report. The government doesn't know how many chartered engineers there are in Whitehall's ranks, said MPs on Parliament's science and technology committee, which means technically …

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Whats the point?

Both the present lot and the last lot always ignored "advisors" that didnt say what they wanted them to say, so why bother adding another useless body to the civil service payroll?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Whats the point?

maybe they will ignore the sci/eng/soc advisors ... but then at least those in charge will have fewer plausible excuses when they get it wrong.

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Unhappy

Re: Whats the point?

Don't be silly. This is classic (and necessary) empire building for any ambitious civil servant.

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Unhappy

Re: "fewer plausible excuses"

That has never stopped any MP. They will only consider the advice of their advisors when it matches what they think needs to be done in order to be re-elected.

It hasn't stopped any unelected civil servants either, who will either ignore the advice of advisors that goes against their current plans, or will simply search for advisors who share their worldview and appoint them to suitable QUANGOs.

Does the average daily mail reader care what a techy has to say? Evidence would suggest not. So appointing such people to positions of responsibility will either never happen, or be a meaningless gesture to the rest of us.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Whats the point?

Correct question, wrong reasoning. The right question is:

What is the point of having a "Chief Engineer" in a country where not a single FTSE 100 listed company (if not even FTSE500) has any of the following grades and titles in their payroll: Distinguished Engineer or Distinguished Member of Technical Staff. I am not even talking about Fellow or the like.

These titles carry a VP package (SVP for fellow) in more enlightened countries _WITHOUT_ the mandate to manage people - they are purely technical.

There is no point to have a National Distinguished Engineer without a matching culture that actually gives said engineer any credit for what he/she is worth.

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Unhappy

Re: Whats the point?

>at least those in charge will have fewer plausible excuses when they get it wrong.

They won't care. They have no shame.

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You may scoff at "Chief social Scientist"

But unfortunately those in charge have amply demonstrated they need to be told basic shit like "Don't hold the police back when gits are looting and torching businesses" and "Don't advise stocking up on petrol on the verge of a panic run on petrol" (And bloody well know what a jerry can is before advising use of one.)

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s/social/computer/

Was it Yes Minister or Dilbert who suggested the idea of countering a disastrous project failure with a meaningless reorganisation?

It does seem to me that a random swapping of job titles won't excuse pouring £17Bn down the drain - though given the amount of talent in government, a quick reshuffle is probably the best they can manage.

However, if our overlords and rulers are so worried about IT "waste", why not change the certainly useless Chief Social Scientist role into something useful - like a Chief Computer Scientist job? In fact, given government's history with IT projects, they probably don't need an actual person to fulfill the role. A framed notice will do - it would read "It'll cost more than you can imagine, it'll be delivered late or not at all and it'll never work properly".

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Childcatcher

Engineers vs Politicians

We don't need advisors but engineers with teeth.

We do not need major projects. Anything bigger than £500M is vanity and hubris. Just look at the aircraft carriers and Raptor purchase, London airport and HS2 what whopping cock-ups. OK so we need to spend on such projects but there is inadequate control and certainly no joined up thinking. None of these projects is fit for purpose because they are driven by politics not common sense.

Politicians should not be involved in projects because they have no idea of the damage they can cause. We need an independent organisation like the Bank of England headed by engineers tasked with picking out of these major spend projects the best value for money. The way we are now going in 5 years we will have spent £100bn and be no better served than we are right now.

Politicians should be there for entertainment not for deciding what to do or how to do it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Engineers vs Politicians

The Bank of England isn't independent, it's a myth.

Saying that the BoE is independent because it sets interest rates is like saying a two year old is independent because you've told him when he gets back from the doctors after his jabs, he can choose any toy he likes to play with.

The governor sends letters every month apologising for the inflation rate that the government and BoE have engineered (due to the fortunate situation that the Euro's going down the toilet,) to whittle away at the value of the debt that Gordon "is a moron" Brown left us with (due to him leaving the BoE alone in the same way, with a different strategy.)

As you say, politicians should be there for entertainment. Politics is a tough job, few people can understand it, and you get criticism from all sides. That's why it's populated by thieving narcissists.

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Joke

Re: Engineers vs Politicians

Anything bigger than £500M is vanity and hubris.

Even that sounds a bit high to me - surely £640K should be enough for anyone?

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Re: Engineers vs Politicians

Do Crossrail for £500m then.

If you don't think we need Crossrail, come down to Stratford station tomorrow morning around 8:30, and ride the Central Line to the City with me.

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Anonymous Coward

There should be a cynic in the house of Lords

Preferably someone with a record of disliking politicians' attempts to feather their nests at the expense of the country. Then they'd stop stupid shit being spent to get MPs directorships.

I offer to do the job myself, but I seem to be blacklisted, for having a record of slagging off politicians' attempts to feather their nests at the expense of the country.

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Re: There should be a cynic in the house of Lords

I'd go one further and take a leaf out of the the Greeks book and have 12 people in compulsory employment to oversee government decisions. 3 months employment at a time, with people randomly selected from a list of registered voters that have an above college education.

I think that politicians would be a lot more careful about their decision making if the public were literally looking over their shoulder.

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Re: There should be a cynic in the house of Lords

"12 people in compulsory employment to oversee government decisions. 3 months employment at a time, with people randomly selected from a list of registered voters"

I couldn't agree more with this.

I would consider it like jury service: Just pick a load of citizens, preferably from different backgrounds and areas of expertise, and have them oversee govt descisions for a few months at a time.

As for the article, I would say it was a step in the right direction. I would actually say that the Commons should not be the ones planning long term projects. They are only elected for a few years at a time, so the projects are viewed in terms of that. The Lords is the perfect place to have these long term projects dealt with, and would be the perfect place to have senior engineers/scientists etc sitting. They can take a long term view and plan things properly.

I think our current system has this fundamental flaw in that all plans must be made by the commons (who cannot see past the next election). Divide the labor between the two according to which is the most suitable place for it.

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Re: There should be a cynic in the house of Lords

"I would consider it like jury service: Just pick a load of citizens, preferably from different backgrounds and areas of expertise, and have them oversee govt descisions for a few months at a time."

That's pretty much how I imagine it too. A kind of civic duty sanity check.

I'd also introduce a method of firing MP's as well. That way, if you don't like what some bone headed MP has done, then you could arrange a a vote in their constituency to decide if they should lose their seat.

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Pirate

Re: There should be a cynic in the house of Lords

My great idea the other day was that we should turn politics on its head - MP's should not be rewarded for sitting on the back-benches doing nothing, they should be on some sort of punishment detail, and only be released from service when the general populace sees some evidence that they have done something useful...

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Re: There should be a cynic in the house of Lords

ancient Athens allocated senior magistrate (Archon) positions by lot from the citizenship.

Though of course the citizenship excluded most of those resident (slaves, women, foreigners)

And the Romans had the tribune of the plebians to stand up for the rights of the ordinary free citizen (again excluding slaves, foreigners...)

Though Mark Antony held that position and he was as "establishment" as they came

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WTF?

Re: There should be a cynic in the house of Lords

Would you trust 12 randomly selected voters off the street to oversee the country?

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Re: There should be a cynic in the house of Lords

I'd trust them more than I'd trust a load of MP's.

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Re: There should be a cynic in the house of Lords

I'd like to modify your idea.

In Britain today there are hundreds of thousands of unemployed angry men. I say deputise one per MP and Lord/Lady. Make the MP and Lord/Lady split their per diem with the unemployed angry man.

In return the unemployed angry man must watch and listen to any session in which 'his' MP or Lord/Lady is participating.

On any/every day where 'his' MP or Lord/Lady says something stupid, self-serving, contrary to the common good or corrupt, the unemployed angry man gets to take his MP or Lord/Lady 'round the back of the House and thump him/her.

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Unhappy

Re: There should be a cynic in the house of Lords

All of these suggestions would probably work to some degree - which is why they will never be implemented. Also, those of you suggesting them are now probably on some new and special watch list.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There should be a cynic in the house of Lords

Thanks for that, I'm checking Worcester based, secretive "employment reference" agencies, now you've mentioned it.

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Anonymous Coward

Need a Chief engineer say MP's

Is that the fancy title given to the bloke, that will help these cretins setup their wifi and install cool Apps on their free iPads.

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Yes, but no

Quite agree that we need a stronger engineering presence in the corridors of power, but not from the Civil Service or Government Contractor usual suspects. There may be x thousand Chartered engineers working in or for the Civil Service, but if all they have done is left Uni. and then worked towards getting their Chartership, rather than actually engineer anything successful, then they will still have no idea what things cost or how to design/implement engineering solutions (an electrical engineer colleague of mine was once asked by a mechanical engineer going for his Chartership, what exactly were the benefits of Aluminium over Steel)! A few Fred Dibnah's and Dyson's mixed in would bring the ivory towers down to earth a bit.

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WTF?

"Engineers who contributed evidence to the committee's report drew attention to some significant recent cock-ups in government policy, stating that if technically minded bods had been involved more directly in the planning, fiascos such as the £17.7bn NHS computer project and the £500m fire service call centre could have been averted."

Did anybody else read this and think: this is basic shit?

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Less skill, more policy

"technically skilled people ... should be ... plunked into policymaking roles, rather than just left to rolling out projects"

I read this as: find all the people who know how to do something practical, stop them doing it, and put them in charge of administering it. Turn your successful salesmen into bad sales managers, your skilled software engineers into bored project managers, and so on. We'll never do anything competent again, but at least our cock-ups will be properly administered.

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Re: Less skill, more policy

No, ask the technically skilled people to distill their wisdom into bullet points or whatever to train those administrators and give them an appreciation as to why things are done certain ways. If those administrators fail to implement agreed best practice, then the technically skilled people should be able to kick them into touch (i.e. a partnership).

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Angel

Plus ca change, plus c'est la même chose

On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.

- Charles Babbage

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Side line and ignore

Idiots in charge tend to employ more of the same. Wish politicians would stick to do what they do best. Oh. I'm sorry. I'm not sure what that is? Why not just get rid of the politicians and let the people of the UK get on with running the country? Let's get the right people for the right job. Perhaps we should get lobbyists in charge? We will never be known for technology while we have a government that does not have the balls to invest in startups and protect our interests globally. Oh, there's a few things to rant about. I've like the rest of us in IT have had experience of UK Gov's inability to deal with IT and the tech and games business in general from the bottom up. Head - wall hit.

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Anonymous Coward

reinventing the wheel kind of

For large IT systems, the CCTA used to assess the proposals.

Unfortunately they were 'merged' into another unit

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And I'll bet

each and every one of the MP's who "said it" has their very own brother-in-law in mind for the job.

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