Clean-ups, postcodes, and corporate hypocrisy

IssueJune 2006
Comment by The Mole

Governmental attempts to soften up public opinion for an announcement of more nuclear power stations have their parallel in the nuclear industry itself.

The British Nuclear Group - they're the people who oversee the radioactive waste mountains at Windscale/Sellafield - are advertising for “environmental specialists” at salaries of up to #43,000 pa. Amongst the work needing doing is coming up with strategies for contaminated land. Dealing with contamination sounds worthy; but you need to remember that this company is part of the BNFL group, other parts of which are lobbying desperately to be allowed to contaminate more land with a new load of reactors.

This slight inconsistency could always be pointed out to the person collecting the job applications (letter and CV please): amanda.j.cook@ - please let The Mole know if any of you get the job.

Mind your mail

The concern about plans for future ID cards ought not to make people overlook current database and surveillance systems which already do some of the jobs a national identity register would do.

Take postcodes for instance. It's amazing how few people know that the public postcode used (by some people) on their letters is not the full story. There is an augmented postcode, which consists of the public postcode plus some extra characters, which uniquely defines every front door in the country. (Well, actually it doesn't, quite - as with all such systems there are errors, glitches and inconsistencies. But The Mole has never got round to being kind enough to the authorities to point out where some of these problems are.)

In the same way that “they” want everyone in the country to have a unique number, which - via the central register - links up all the known information about that person, everyone's home already has a unique “number”, which has for some time been used by government departments to correlate what they know about you (or at least your household).

The Post Office has a rather weird attitude to postcodes, trying to bully people into using them, even though the full descriptive address without a postcode is always sufficient, and even though half the time letters don't go through the automatic sorting machines which use the codes anyway.

Yet, the Post Office has been giving a premium rate phone number for postcode enquiries - costing you several times what the postage will cost you anyway. So they can hardly complain if you boycott the codes rather than being ripped off when you try to help them. (And let's be clear, the codes are in their interest, and that of big corporations and government departments - they're not in the interest of ordinary people.)

Wasting water

No doubt there was a time when the sort of person who read PN would rush off and report a water leak in order to safeguard people's common resources. But that sort of public spiritedness seems rather out of place in the modern privatised water industry. It's surely tempting, whenever a water company asks people to be community minded in times of water shortage, to ask why, since the water no longer belongs to the public.

Maybe they should be told, “You give us our water back, and then we'll look after it, otherwise it's your problem.”

See more of: The Molehill