News and views from north Bristol's urban village

Monday, 11 December 2006

Well Said, BANES

I've always been fascinated by BANES. When the former county of Avon fragmented under a government reorganization at the end of the last century, the bit that didn't really fit anywhere got together and called itself Bath and North East Somerset.

I admire any county, unitary authority or shire that can come up with such a long name for itself. Sadly, however, the history of such polyglot entities does not auger well for the the longevity of BANES. Who can forget the troubles faced by the linguistically-complex Bosnia-Herzegovina, for instance? Even today, the world's 127th largest country is sub-divided into two distinct entities - the Federation of Bosnia and the Republika Srpska (not to mention the semi-autonomous Brecko Federal District in the north of the country.)

Although the county between Bristol and Somerset proper does lack a certain geographical and cultural cohesion (Keynsham High Street not withstanding) the naming of the county of BANES reflects the careful, inclusive procedure that went into its formation. The same care was expressed in an email I received today from the county council. In response to a specific query in my professional capacity, I was interested to receive the following reply:

Subject: Auto-reply from Bath & North East Somerset Council

Thank you for taking the time to contact us. This is an automatically generated message to confirm that we have received your email, and provide you with a couple of links to useful information.

This email can be broken down into the following sections:

1) How and when we will deal with your email
2) Useful Council links for finding information

3) Other useful links

--- How and when we will deal with your email - what you should expect --- If we receive this email during our office hours (8am - 5pm Monday to Friday, excluding bank holidays) then we will deal with any issues before the close of business on the same day, otherwise we will deal with your message by the end of business during the next working day. Obviously at times of extreme weather, civil emergencies or acts of god, we will be concentrating on emergency issues.

You will next receive a message from us, within a working day, detailing what we have done about your contact & what the next steps will be. Please note that if we deem that your message is from a sales company or a company requesting contact details for a mailing list, then we will not reply to you directly, however we will forward your email to a pertinent officer within the Authority, and they will respond to you if they wish to find out more.

As a Christian believer myself, I was respectfully heartened that the awkwardly-named county had decided to allow acts of god to override their normal procedures for replying to emails. I was puzzled, however, that they had omitted the capital letter usually employed when referring to the Divinity and wondered if they were referring to someone else.

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