Today sees the deadline for submissions to a Croydon Council consultation on spending cuts over the next two years.
What do you mean, you were not aware of Croydon Council running such a consultation? After all, our council – motto: “Proud to Swerve” – would not dream of staging a public consultation and do just the bare minimum to publicise it and encourage the residents to take part. Would they?
Of course they would.
This latest consultation has all the hallmarks of the barely legal consultation on libraries conducted two years ago.
Regardless of public opinion, this latest effort is what Tim Pollard and his mates on the Tory group that runs the Town Hall intend to use to justify closing down the borough’s archive and local studies library, to remove a swathe of public football pitches from service, and probably to increase residents’ parking permit fees, the second hike in this stealth tax in just two years.
Inside Croydon was first to highlight the threat to the borough’s archive, when we also published Sean Creighton’s plea to maintain the service. The local studies library escaped the axe when Councillor Sara “Book Token” Bashford tried to impose her Philistinism on the borough two years ago, when a 400-signature petition helped to save the day. But the service is under threat once more.
This would save around £100,000 per year – barely the cost of the councillor allowances to Dudley and Margaret Mead – but it would cause irreparable damage to the borough’s cultural fabric.
The proposal to shut the archive is in itself a wonderful example of how dysfunctional our council is: the proposal has been put forward because whichever Taberner House genius it was who drew up the bidding terms for the privatisation of the public libraries failed to include the archive in the tender (a simple addition which was readily done in Wandsworth).
Maybe Croydon knew that running a borough archive would be beyond John Laing Integrated Services? Or that there is just no profit margin in it for the much-preferred bidders?
And so what we get now is a shabby excuse for a public consultation, so that Pollard, the Meads and their mates can demonstrate that they have public support for their latest dogmatic destruction of the public sector in Croydon.
The online consultation document itself is a paragon of what is wrong about local authority communications. The document runs to seven pages and poses more than 100 questions, many of them written in fluent councilspeak, with no briefing paper or references, so that most ordinary people haven’t got a chance of understanding the majority of it.
- “Embed new model of youth offer at locality level”. Any idea what this might mean, in any detail? Or…
- “Oracle licensing and hosting efficiencies through shared procurement”? Or…
- “Development of the self directed support market for older people and longer term conditions service”.
As one leading light in one of the borough’s community groups has said, “That must mean something to the experts, but not to the average person in the street.”
Chances are, any residents who manage to find the consultation on the web, most will have mentally switched off or actually given up long before they reach some of the more fundamental propositions which the council is evidently trying to sneak in.
“Outsource environmental response team (ERT) – reduction in service” – these are the people you call to report fly-tipping or when the neighbours in the flats above a shop have yet again left a bin bag full of soiled disposable nappies out on the street. “Outsourced” would mean a cut in the council’s immediate costs, and even dirtier, less-well-kept streets.
There are other proposals in the questionnaire where no degree of councilspeak is necessary, the meaning is plain:
- “Reduce staff in voluntary grants programme”
- “Removal of under-used football pitches”. So much for Croydon’s Olympic legacy. Maybe Laing will get to build on the playing fields?
- “Reduction of maintenance of trees”
The whole thing is somewhere between a sham and a shambles.
Set aside a good 15 minutes before midnight tonight and undermine the whole thing by letting them know what you think (in no more than 300 words, naturally). The survey can be found by clicking here.
And make sure, also, that you email Tim Pollard directly with your comments: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The council is organising a session for businesses with Google, presumably entitled “How to avoid £200m a year in UK corporation tax”
- TaxPayers’ Alliance say Fisher is “part of entitlement culture”
- Inside Croydon: For comment and analysis about Croydon, from inside Croydon
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- £30m libraries privatisation could be sent for judicial review (insidecroydon.com)
- Getting trollied: Croydon’s uncharitable councillors (insidecroydon.com)
- Legacy of the riots: Croydon abandoned by middle-class (standard.co.uk)