Black’s Blog: Self inflicted silly season stories…



Jimmy Black
Jimmy Black

Councillor Black reflects on self inflicted silly season stories…

If people didn’t do daft things, the world would be a more miserable place. Dundee’s housing department is doing a great job insulating homes, fighting fuel poverty, making tenants and homeowners happy. The department made us all burst out laughing when they painted the houses opposite Dens Park, home of the mighty Dundee FC, terra cotta, or in other words, tangerine. The offending colour has now been changed to a more sedate cream which people seem to like. The national newspapers lapped it up.

The other day our roads department painted a disabled parking bay half on the pavement and half off. In the context of that street, which has wide pavements and a narrow carriageway, it was a good idea. People were congratulating the council on displaying common sense … but the official response has been, ‘uh oh, we didn’t mean to do that, we’d better shift it’. (And we’ve booked the woman whose space it is because she forgot to display her blue badge). Big stories in the local paper and, I believe, a wee bit in the Sun. We’re trying to sort it out.

PR disasters happen when people don’t consult the people they serve (ie the tenants and owners of the tangerine houses) and stick rigidly to policies which, to normal folks, make no sense. They also happen when people just forget. Long ago when I was working in radio a story from Falkirk Sheriff Court went round the world. A solicitor was pleading his client’s case when a cheerful Christmas ditty rang through the courtroom. He had been given a pair of musical socks for his Christmas and forgot to turn them off. The Sheriff was not amused, but millions of people around the world had a good chortle at that one …  the story literally went round the world.

The moral of the tale is that everyone involved in any organisation providing services needs to think about what they are doing and whether it makes any sense. The flick of a painter’s brush (a bit like a butterfly’s wings) can get you in the Sun. And check your socks.

Councillor Jimmy Black is a former convener of housing at Dundee City Council. He writes here in a personal capacity.

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