It has become necessary for the company to have a base in a neighbouring local authority to satisfy that authority's licensing demands. A little irritating in itself, but not too onerous because it doesn't need to be a physical presence, just an address and a local landline, so we entered into a contract with a local business offering virtual offices for a monthly fee; this way we can use the address in correspondence and the phone calls are automatically diverted to our main premises.
This, apparently, is a problem for one of the other authorities we deal with and they have told us they require us to show that we have a Public Liability insurance policy for the new 'office' as well as our real one. We explained that it doesn't actually exist and therefore no member of the public can possibly set foot in it, so we didn't require Public Liability insurance to cover it. They replied that they were well aware of that but require us to produce proof of it anyway.
So I contacted our broker and explained to him what we needed and he has now arranged for cover in case an imaginary person accidentally trips over the imaginary carpet in this imaginary office space. Of course, insurance companies being insurance companies this didn't come without cost, albeit a nominal £100 or so per year. However, the broker took a couple of days to get back to me due to it being Christmas and he running around like a blue-arsed fly trying to see as many clients as possible before the break. In the meantime, our operational crew were told that we would not be able to use our drivers on work for that authority until we had produced the insurance schedule ... for a fictional office!
Now, I know this isn't too big a deal cost or time wise, but it's just one of dozens of examples of entirely unnecessary public sector box-ticking we have to get through and is relevant to an amusing event I attended last year at this authority.
They had summoned all transport suppliers to a meeting in the Town Hall to discuss a number of issues, one of which was council spending cuts. The head of procurement detailed the percentage of their budget he was expected to save and asked - with a straight face - all of those assembled why it was that when his staff rang to get quotes they were given one price, but once it was revealed that the work was for the local authority the price went up. He looked astonished when the chamber erupted with laughter.
All other companies at that meeting were in the same boat as us, beset with red tape upon red tape imposed on them by this authority, almost all of which is not required when providing services for private businesses or directly to the public. So, naturally, those costs are bundled up and form part of the price charged to the authority for performing the work.
Once the peals of laughter had subsided, three suppliers stood up and went through the list of irritating and absurd box-ticking rules and regs they had to endure just to be included in the framework to be able to bid for work. As they did, the head of procurement had a resigned look on his face and eventually nodded to indicate that he understood.
Well that's what I thought at the time anyway. But who do you think it was who asked for a schedule for an insurance policy for a non-existent office, covering non-existent accidents suffered by non-existent people, the cost of which will be factored into all future quotes from us for that authority? Why, the very same head of procurement of course. Well, who cares, eh? It's only your money.