SHOCKING as was the case of a 13-year-old East Lancashire girl being indecently assaulted by child advice worker Martin Tibbett after he spent months "grooming" her after she rang a county council children's help line, just as outrageous is that someone so manifestly callow was employed by this service.

Tibbett, after all, was just 20 himself.

It is not so long ago that someone so young was not even officially considered to be an adult.

So what on earth were the organisers of this project thinking of, taking on a person with so little experience of life as an adviser to young people?

Answers, please, from County Hall.

But doesn't this folly highlight the nannying nature of local government these days. I mean, just what business is it of a council to go about hand-holding youngsters to begin with?

To me, it is typical of the unnecessary and wasteful expansion of council services into interference in people's lifestyles that the help-line which this unfortunate girl turned to is part of a so-called Internet 'info-zone' providing youngsters with advice on such things as drugs, contraception, sex and sexuality, how to claim benefits and, goodness knows why, that modern-day haven for sad idlers, a chat room.

There was a time when the council's job was to mend the holes in the road, empty the bins and catch rats -- but, as we find nowadays, such tasks do not seem to have as high a priority as social-engineering meddling in areas that were once nothing to do with local government.