THAT INDICATING FORMULA.
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In December, 1921 the " Inspector " points out), the Abandonment of the Governmental Post-war Attempt to Classify and Control All Road Traffic was at last Officially Admitted as Unnecessary.
ALTHOUGH the public outcry against bureaucratic extravagance has been growing steadily for, at least, the last eighteen months, it is only quite recently that the objects of thie dissatisfaction have condescended to take the slightest notice of the desire to be rid of them. It is only, shall we say, in the last six months that those, who, with complete disregard for public convenience and the taxpayers' packets, have been so long accustomed to playing ducks and drakes with the public's millions, have at last begun to wonder whether they might not in the end really lose their jobs. As a result, we are now, atregular intervals, being pacified by periodic assurances that this, that and the other economies of a few hundred or a thousand or two pounds would, ultimately, take place when such-andsuch a contingency arose. The net result on the nation's economical position is, so far, scarcely perceptible. Way hack in February, 1921, we were definitely told that the area transport commissioners of the Ministry of Transport were straightway to go. To-day we learn that the regional transport officers of the Board of Trade are to disappear] Many months ago we were all treated to descriptions of the extraordinary utility of a Department —ancestors of the aforesaid commissioners who begat the regional officers—which was to set about the simple task of "co-ordinating and tabulating the whole of the country's transport." I have almost forgotten so often has the particular organization been rechristened, what Ministry or what Department it was that originally set about this task. The whole of the old methods were wrong, you will remember. No butcher had a right to call in the same street as another butcher I How often was a coal cart to be seen returning empty when it might easily be arranged for it to pick up a dozen sacks of potatoes at one place, a mangle at another, and some sheepskins and a couple of tombstones not three miles away! Why should a tradesman own his own horse, when he could borrow half his neighbour's? Why I no one actually knew how many .bakers' handcarts there were in Kent, to say nothing of England, Scotland and Ireland. Supposing there were a coal strike, ought not every wheeled vehicle in the country to be at once mobilized and marshalled and paraded and labelled and set to work to go somewhere to take something or bring it beck, as might be most suitable'? None of these things had been done. Britain, it is true, had become Great without them, but haw much greater she might have been if no private ownership of vehicles had been permitted and everybody had carried everybody else's heads.
That is a slightly exaggerated account of the proposals that certain enthusiastic office-seekers ladled out to the public soon after their war-timessecupations had mercifully been terminated. At all costs to perpetuate their jobs—to find some plausible excuse for remaining in Government office and pay—the merry game was started, and whoever they were in those days—it was before the days of the Transport Ministry, surely 1—soon evolved a system of classifyjog and and labelling every kind of goods vehicle in use, and every owner was, thereafter, supposed to have written on his vehicle some cabalistic formula indicating whether it was a coal wagon or a goat cart and whether it belonged to Brighton or Birmingham. Quite a lot of this was done and quite a lot was not. What happened to those owners who took no notice of the regulations is beyond the writer's, knowledge. What happened to the statistics and the card indices on which they are recorded is also an unknown factor. The whole of this foolish and ill-advised attempt to achieve the impossible went " west " months and months ago. The one achievement to the credit of those who had spent so much effort in counting the country's milk carts was that, when the railway strike caused a national holding up of foodstuffs, it was found possibleto collect a few hundreds of wagons to carry milk and other necessaries with but little delay—a result that could be achieved with reasonable ease any day, -with little warning, in a great national emergency.
What interests me to-day is to read in my daily paper that at the end of the last month of 1921— and only then, "the termination of the engagement of the regional transport officers of the Food Department" has been decided upon, and that. "a saving of 231,000 a year in salaries will be effected." They have been sacked regularly now for some years, it will be remembered I Surely, we, as taxpayers, have a right to know what these very earnest officers have been doing with their time all these many months, and what, in their so-called "regional areas,' they have achieved during their period of earning several timee £31,000. What became oflthe scheme to plaster all vehicles with algebraic identification marks? How far was it carried, and who gave permission far it to be stopped ? What happened to the elaborate plans for preventing lorries doing any longdistance work and for ensuring all short hauls to them?
Soon after this scheme for co-ordinating the road traffic of the country was heralded, one regional officer, I remember, somewhere in the southern agricultural counties, permitted to be published a most glowing account of the success he had achieved in finding return loads for several wagons and in per-, suading several local tradesmen in one town to pool their deliveries. We were told to expect a very rapid and thorough extension of the whole idea. My butcher still delivers his own meat and no one else's, and so do several other tradesmen of whom I know !
Briefly, behind this announcement of the furthez at-ling of a few of the same redundant, albeit rechristened, officials there is here the tale of a wicked waste of money and time on a futile scheme for -systematizing, on bureaucratic lines, the road traffic of a great country—an impossible task, as I wrote when first it was mooted. It has been allowed to toddle along apparently so long that everyone has almost forgotten it. It may toddle on even yet under the guidance, perhaps, of divisional haulage superintendents this time ? The Ministry of Food apparently were the last people to father the precious scheme, and surely that organization dieappeared many months ago! Someone ought to ask for a return of the activities and accomplishment of that 231,000 of officialdom which was never wanted and has achieved nothing—so far as is known.