Saturday, February 18, 2006

Why are there so many CCTVs here?

A cracking post on why there are so many CCTVs, from the Cambridge University Computer Lab's security research folk. Apparently it's simply because the government put up a lot of money conditional on doing CCTV with it. The UK public sector historically loves use-it-or-lose-it accounting, despite the fact that it is completely fucking stupid. It's been rolled back since 1997 for departments, who no longer need to spend every penny before the end of the financial year or face Treasury cuts, but weaker parties like local councils, housing associations and such still get the stick. Making the budget for one of your regular functions - like maintaining the council housing stock - subject to "doing something unpopular or stupid we like" is a fine way of enforcing will.

I ought to say something clever at this moment about human perception of risk and being asymmetrically weighted to losses. It's certainly true that the entire PFI business was founded on the principle that "you can have this project, so long as you have it our way, no matter about the future cost" - and the unwillingness to let go of a supposed benefit.

Tangentially, has anyone else noticed the conjunction of very low yields on long government bonds, panic about the PFI repayment "comet's tail", and even more panic about pension funds having to buy long bonds at silly prices? Seems to me like an elegant solution is possible, but sometimes people are even risk-averse with regard to free money..

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