Never get in the way of:

  • the boss and a cup of tea
  • a politician and a bag load of money
  • a public servant and "policy".

There is a planning application in for a car park expansion next door, the local council sent me a letter about it.

"You may view, or request photocopies at $2 per A4 page, at the council offices".

Packed the laptop and portable scanner, headed down to the council offices, obtained a copy of the documents to view, and was promptly stopped from scanning them.  The conversations went like this:

Service Desk person:

Wait!  You’re not allowed to do that.  It’s against policy.  Calls colleague over
(the Service Desk persons behaviour reminded me of Daleks shouting ‘Exterminate’.  A bystander would have thought I was some sort of anarchist, judging by the behaviour.)

Young colleague

It’s against policy. 
So show me the policy.
In the letter you received, it said you can’t scan documents.
Here’s the letter, no it doesn’t.
Ummm, it’s a copyright issue.  We add a disclaimer stamp to the documents.  It’s policy!
Soooo, if I scan the document, there’s a copyright issue BUT if you photocopy it, there’s not.
I’ll get my Team Lead

Team Lead Planning Department

It’s policy.
So show me the policy.
No policy as such, but we add a disclaimer stamp.
So, apart from the disclaimer stamp, you’re not adding any value here?
I’ll go check with my supervisor (took the documents with her, I did ask for the A0 sheets to be copied)
… 5 minutes later …
It’s an advertised document, so you are allowed to scan it. (documents returned)
Thank you.

Half expected some problems, so here’s what I did:

  • Wore professional looking clothes (suit + tie).
  • Spoke quietly.
  • Challenged "the policy". 
    … as some as someone says it’s policy, you can be 90% sure they’re just trying to stop you asking questions.
  • Noted the names of everyone I spoke with, the conversation we had, and the time we had the chat.
    … made sure they saw me doing this.
  • My fallback would have been to either, photograph the documents, or pay the $46 to get them to photocopy the documents for me..

And here’s what annoys me.  The council could offer a "scanned document" service.  The advantages to them would be:

  • environmentally friendly (no paper used)
  • value added service for little effort
    ie. document scanned once, sold to many buyers.
  • could be made available from the web.


Might write them a letter about it.