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Exploding myth or Pickled herring?

One day, we may get to know what happened over the Boxing Day Bins Bible saga.

These are the bare facts we do know: Eric Pickles’ Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) publishes a report on 26 December purporting to debunk 10 ‘myths’ about weekly collections but quickly withdraws it from the official website minutes later. DCLG says publication was in error and ahead of an unspecified date.

Version 1 (V1) may only have been online for ‘minutes’, but electronic alerts from the DCLG website and social media ensured a wide readership. And no doubt there were special deliveries to the Telegraph and Daily Mail which both carried substantial reports. Then, lo and behold, but not quite on Twelfth Night, Version 2 (V2) duly appears on 4 January.

Comparing the text of V1 and V2 reveals only one word has been changed - from the first sentence of Pickles’ foreword (which also has several uncorrected grammatical errors). Surviving errors such as these back DCLG’s vehement rejection of suggestions V1 bombed because of inaccuracies - but after ringing round councils included in the bible’s case studies MRW did indeed uncover a few anomalies.

So why would the DCLG pull a document that is not ‘wrong’ and gets you helpful national coverage, only to repeat the process nine days later? Phillip Ward, a former senior civil servant, tweeted about the official ‘error’ line: “Frankly don’t believe this account,” and later: “Maybe the rapid withdrawal shows civil service asserting proper process - if so congrats.”

He could well be right: the DCLG has form when it comes to political staff chasing populist headlines.

As the dust settles from Pickles’ seasonal bombshells, sector experts are now examining the explosive material inside them: many are already finding plenty to challenge.


them: many are already finding plenty to challenge.

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