Making life difficult


computersaysno.jpg Is it me, or is someone determined to make simple stuff harder? Not long ago, when you applied to get your kid into a particular state school, you weren't always successful, but at least you got the impression that some human being had considered the application. Recently our youngest was applying for schools, but his application to the school that we thought best got no further because another school (which we considered unsuitable) "in the collegiate system"had accepted him.

Eh? The original idea of "collegiate schools" was that local state schools would collaborate so that the best ones helped the worst ones. Now it has become a way of squeezing out the last vestige of competition in the state system. Get an acceptance from any school in the network – even the worst – and the authorities can tick the box – satisfied parents. Except we aren't.

But it's not just the state sector. I've been tearing my hear out trying to open a bank account for my elder boy. The other day we went in and when they ran a credit check it was a case of 'Computer Says No'. Since he's never had credit in his life he can hardly be a bad risk, and I suspect the glitch is just that the Royal Mail changed our postcode recently and 'Computer' thinks that his address doesn't exist. But no human being seems to be able to sort it out.

State or non-state, the ultimate source of such absurdities is the same. Centralization and regulation. For a few happy years, state schools competed for students, because their income depended on it. But now, due to some central edict about "collegiate" collaboration, they've found a way to divide the pack of applicants cosily between them. And while I'd have thought that seven or eight banks was a fair measure of competition in a small place like the UK, the fact is that they now pursue the observance of government regulations more than the demands of their customers. Make a mistake and you get splatted by the reguator. It's much easier to say No. Or at least, get the computer to do it for you.