Anyone who thinks working in local government is a cushy number should try it here. From a consultant's point of view, any local government posting is the pits. Yet normally, at least, it's stress free. The most excitement you can expect is watching the window cleaner on a Thursday. But Milton Maynard's different. The most modern council in the country, they calls themselves, and they're busting a gut to prove it. Milton Maynard, home of concrete cows, the grid system of roads, and fearsome chief information officer Lucy Livesey. This woman even has me marking my coffee breaks on flexitime. She'll want me to pay for the coffee next.
In my last report I mentioned the casual way Ms Livesey announced I was to demonstrate our prototype car charging system to the Society of Local Authority Councils (SLAC) this week. At that point nothing had been produced.
Not even a plan. I had to abandon the requirements assessment, the feasibility study, the impact report, the interim forecasts, and just get on and do something. It went against every instinct. I called together my hand-picked band of project members. We were going to be working some long hours.
When it was all over, Lucy Livesey took to me one side. She waved to the departing SLAC delegates, then surprised me by punching me on the shoulder. "Cool piece of work," she said. "Truly cool." I smiled enigmatically, thinking that anyone over the age of 30 who can say "cool" with a straight face has definitely got a maturity problem. "What I don't understand," she went on, "is how you managed it. I'll be quite frank, I expected you to cock it up. You've restored my confidence in Slaughter McTone Regis."
"Thanks," I said. "Remember to put that in your client feedback. Now if you'll excuse me."
"Just a moment," continued Ms Livesey. "How did you do it?" I frowned.
"I won't release your expenses until you tell me."
"If you insist," I said. "It was faked." I saw her disbelieving look.
"What did you see?"
"I saw a car fitted with a transponder. Then it drove up and down Wotan Gate, and every time it passed, a charge appeared on the central database. I saw it on the screen."
"You saw a car fitted with an air freshner. Every time it passed, I kicked Mr Fielding under the table (you can come out now, Mr Fielding) and he clicked the mouse, which is down there with him. It's a fake, Ms Livesey."
She was quick to recover. "Still, it had them convinced. Excellent work."
"Thanks. We'll start the requirements assessment in the morning."
"No way," said Ms Livesey. "The prototype was superb, so I expect rapid development of the working version."
"That's your problem." She turned to go. "And before you start, pop down to the supermarket. We're out of coffee, and it's your turn to buy."
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