Peter Rhodes on used Volvos and a mystery about 'super bright' officials

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Joe and Jess Thwaite – wise buyers
Joe and Jess Thwaite – wise buyers

Joe and Jess Thwaite, the couple who won £184 million on EuroMillions, have splashed out on a second-hand Volvo. Some may sneer but it's a wise move.

I once owned a second-hand Volvo. It was a large, useful car with a big diesel engine and did almost 60 miles to the gallon. What's more, I can honestly say that in all the years I owned it, I was never mistaken for a EuroMillions jackpot winner.

We reach a stage in life, alas, when our lives are governed not only by heart, soul and brain but also by our bladders. At a time when the population is ageing and that vast baby-boom generation is increasingly planning its travels around the available loos, councils everywhere are demolishing them. On holiday in Devon last week we encountered three council-owned loos up for sale for what the bureaucrats call “repurposing” and the rest of us call closing.

According to research by the BBC, the UK's bigger councils ran 5,159 public toilets in 2010 but by 2018 this had slumped to 4,486. The Guardian estimates the average council in England provides only 15 toilets per 12,500 citizens.

This tells us two things. Firstly, some councils don't give a damn about the convenience of the public. Secondly, never assume that a job on the BBC or the Guardian is going to be glamorous. You may dream of filing breathless dispatches from Kyiv. You end up counting bogs in Bognor.

Incidentally, councils are not the only loo offenders. For years one of our favourite National Trust cafes in Devon has had sensible, traditional separate male and female loos. They have now been replaced with a single unisex cubicle (with an alarmingly wonky lock) and, bizarrely, a shower. I suspect wokery has been at work.

In order to reduce the size of the Civil Service, a fast-track recruitment process for young graduates is being shelved. The inevitable howls of protest include the claim by a former Cabinet minister that the scheme provided “super-bright young officials who were willing to challenge orthodoxy”.

What we aren't told is how many, if any, of these super-bright fast-trackers were slapped with fixed-penalty tickets after Partygate. A state secret, I guess.

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