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“The bureaucracy is expanding, to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.”

I have no idea where I heard this line, or who said it – the internet offers some conflicting views – but it seems to me, a lovely summation of what it’s like, sometimes, dealing with our government.  I have been trying for a few months now, to sort out some paperwork on my grandmother’s behalf, and the journey has been one of irritation through to downright rage.

To begin with the irritation.  The initial documents I thought I had to find, seemed relatively simple.  A very helpful, very clear website said ‘print this and send it off’ and that seemed to be all that was involved.  I printed it… then myself and my Gran managed to botch one of the pages, so we printed it again and tried better, as the dire notice ‘This document may be rejected if it contains any errors’ was written in bold, scary letters at the bottom of the page, and on our third attempt, we got it right.

We then got the document signed and witnessed by no less than three people, informed my mother and finally sent it off, having weighed it correctly, to the government to be stamped, nice covering note attached, job done, thank you kindly.


A few days ago, however, imagine my irritation to receive a reply – albeit relatively quickly by the standard of our government – informing me that I had filled out the wrong form.  “You want LPA002, not LPA003,” explained the helpful letter attached.  “Please complete the enclosed form and return with your cheque.”

My… cheque?  Whoa there a second, what cheque?

“Please enclose £130,” went on the letter.  “Be advised that if your form contains any errors, it may be rejected, but any payment is non-refundable.  If you wish to apply for an exemption, please fill out the attached form at the back of the form, and enclose the proof required.”

Now, rather befuddled, I went through this new form, only to conclude on the back page that actually, the new form was no more nor less than an addendum to the old form, which would still be needed and which I still had to send back, just with the same information written out again in a slightly larger font.  And meanwhile…

“When did you complete LPA001, notice to inform?” asked the form.  LPA001?  What the hell was that?  After some trawling around on the internet – because the helpful enclosed booklet was about as helpful as herpes – I found out what this form was, and completed it as well.  But wait?  Did I have to send in LPA001 to the government as well?  But then how could I both use it to inform my chosen recipient and the government simultaneously without fibbing?  Deeply confused…  by now, of course, all my paperwork was starting to stretch out over months.  LPA002 was completed in May; 003 in June, 001 in July, and all of it in very different inks and different styles of stressed.  Phone the helpful helpline and you get three completely contradictory views from three total strangers, none of which necessarily answer the question you wanted answered.

“You could just pay a solicitor to do this for you, you know?” suggested one.

No!  Because when I looked at the government’s website, this was easy!  This was one form!  Signed, sealed, delivered!  This was something supposed to be well within my power, and now you suggest that I farm out my independence, again, to fee-grabbing lawyers?  What the hell happened to accessible governance?!

Still, even as I reflect on my exasperation with the government, I realise that it has nothing on my infuriation with Barclays bank.  Trying to book my Gran into an appointment at Barclays bank was like attempting to negotiate the Treaty of Versailles with a swollen tongue in a tent in mid-winter on the Isle of Skye.  Kept waiting in a holding call for seven minutes (‘your call is important to us…’) you’d get through only for the 8th minute to be the one at which the entire telephone system promptly crashed, forcing you to start again!  By the time I actually managed to book an appointment for my Gran at the bank where she’d been banking for 40 years, I’d phoned Barclays three times in a row.  And as if that wasn’t hard enough, moving the appointment forward by an hour was downright impossible.

“I see the appointment in our system, Ms. Webb,” explained the man on the other end of the telephone line.  “But I cannot move it as you are not the account holder.”

“But… I booked it for my Grandmother,” I explained.  “My Gran will be attending.  I have all her documents, and the bank gave me power of attorney.”

“Thank you for your valuable information, but only the account holder can move the appointment.”

“What valuable information – and for goodness sake, it’s a meeting with a financial advisor, it’s not like I’m trying to access my Gran’s accounts!”

“Thank you for your valuable information, but only the account holder can move the appointment.”

“Can I speak to someone more senior?”


Arrrgggghhh!  And what happened at the end of this anyway, when my Gran eventually did turn up for her (unmoved) appointment?  Her local bank branch had no record of it in their system anyway…