Bashford blames council official for £20,000 taps fiasco

So, who is responsible for decisions taken by Croydon’s Conservative-run council?

Sara Bashford: the buck stops somewhere else

Sara Bashford: the buck stops somewhere else

Not senior councillors, if a recent “Nuffink to do wiv me, guv” email from Sara “Book Token” Bashford, the £43,339 per year part-time Tory cabinet member, is anything to go by.

Notionally, at least, Bashford is supposed to be responsible for “corporate and voluntary services” at Croydon Town Hall. It is worth re-stating that in her “spare time”, Bashford has a second job, also paid for out of tax-payers’ money, working in the constituency office of Croydon Central MP Gavin Barfwell. Barfwell’s staff selection policy is clearly not driven by the calibre of candidates for his jobs.

Our loyal reader will recall that Bashford is the senior Tory councillor who at a council meeting last month revealed that replacement taps – each costing £272.69 – were having to be fitted throughout Fisher’s Folly, within six months of the opening of our “cash-strapped” council’s £140 million headquarters offices. What Bashford failed to mention in her official answer was that the total bill for replacement taps would amount to £20,000.

Now, according to Bashford, it will be Croydon Council – or actually, you, me and all the Council Tax-payers of Croydon – who will be footing the 20 grand bill for the lovely new taps. They are having to be fitted because the ones originally installed had spouts too short to reach the sinks and so were pouring water all over the floors of the toilets across the building.

And there’s nothing that Bashford is prepared to do to claw back any of the public money being wasted in this way. But then, what’s a “mere” 20 grand of other people’s money?

Bashford is the woman who seriously thought it would be cheaper to hand out book tokens to residents than to maintain the borough’s libraries. She was also behind the shambolic and costly tendering process to privatise Croydon’s libraries. And it was Bashford who closed the borough’s “cultural gem”, the David Lean Cinema, without checking the “on-costs” of security and maintenance of the less-busy Clocktower complex. The David Lean Cinema was re-opened this week – by the Mayor of Croydon.

And now we learn that Bashford and her spendthrift Tory council have presided over the cost of fitting out the new headquarters offices ballooning from £3.1 million to £3.9 million in the past year, when at the same time cutting public services such as street cleaning, school crossing patrols and weekly bin collections, all to “save” money.

dripping tapA concerned resident wrote to Councillor Bashford about the taps, and after an initial reply, asked, “Although you say that the taps and basins were chosen by the council, if the council was not provided with a choice by the contractor as part of a wider selection… then the responsibility is surely a shared one between the council and the contractor?

“Is this a view held by the Corporation Solicitor?”, meaning the six-figure salaried Julie Belvir, the borough’s full-time legal officer and her staff.

This was the terse response that the Council Tax-payer received from Bashford (who is paid £43,339 a year in “allowances”, remember, to deal with enquiries such as this):

Date: Wed, 26 Mar 2014 16:59:25 +0000

Thank you for your email.

Councillors do not make the decision about what taps etc are installed, staff are employed to do this and it was a member of staff who agreed the specification.

The tap design originally specified was thought to be the most appropriate at the time, but now we know an alternative is more appropriate.

I cannot comment on the Corporate Solicitors view, if you really want to obtain this you will have to write and seek it.

Sara Bashford

Good to see an elected councillor taking full responsibility for the actions of the council and council staff.

It would appear that it is not just the streets of Croydon which are lined with rubbish. There’s a fair amount of rubbish taking seats in the Town Hall chamber.


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4 Responses to Bashford blames council official for £20,000 taps fiasco

  1. davidcallam says:

    Are you seriously suggesting that a decision about something technical, like the specification of taps and washbasins should be left to some here-today, gone-tomoirrow, know-nothing councillor?
    Somebody cocked it up; an officer with a professional qualification that says he or she should know better; making the council rather than the builder liable for restitution.
    It would be good to think the officer in question has been disciplined, but I doubt it.
    In this, as in most technical matters, councillors, including Ms Bashford, are irrelevant. You will need to find some other topic for your party political attacks.

    • Not for the first time David, you miss the point.

      All decisions taken by council officers will be made within the bounds of policy decisions taken by the administration in charge of the Town Hall. It was Mike Fisher and his merry band’s decision to give CCURV the go-ahead to build new council offices, rather than repair and refurbish Taberner House, which would have cost at least £100 million less than the cost of Fisher’s Folly.

      The taps are just the latest extravagance and “snagging issue” with Fisher’s Folly. There’s the leaking roof and the umbrella wrapper, and the £4 million spent on furnishing the building. And a “public space” which has hosted 20 events in six months – that’s less than one event per week.

      In the case of Bashford, this “know-nothing” councillor, as you put it, has been behind a litany of wrong-headed, costly bad decisions.

      Is it not right that her record should be held up for scrutiny?

      But what is most extraordinary is the dismissive disdain Bashford exhibits in her terse email to someone she is supposed to be serving, as she passes the buck to some unnamed official. Such public responsibility! Such leadership!

      It is not a party political attack to demand better of those who in eight weeks’ time will want us to vote for them, so that they can enjoy another four years on the Town Hall gravy train.

  2. davidcallam says:

    Can we expect the same level of scrutiny, delivered with the same degree of bile, in the event that Inside Croydon’s Labour chums win the forthcoming council elections?

    • Yes, David.

      Quite looking forward to the time when I no longer live in a ward in which the three Tory councillors won an election on a deliberate lie about the incinerator; in a Tory-run council where the councillors’ first act in 2010 was to increase the amount of allowances they would pay themselves while spending £140 million on council offices while cutting services elsewhere; under a Tory London Mayor who thinks nothing of giving away public property to private business interests with scant attention to anything resembling proper scrutiny; or with a Tory MP who was re-elected in 2010 with an increased majority despite being caught with his hand in the cookie jar in the MPs’ expenses scandal.

      And I don’t know about you, but I do think it important to hold all public officials to account when they allow a situation to fester that ends up in rioting on our streets, and then misappropriate funding intended for those made homeless or who lost their businesses in one area, and use it for new kerbstones and other cosmetic changes in their own wards.

      I don’t know about “Labour chums”, though. Or are you confusing them with my Tory friends, such as “Lord” Seb and Paul Deighton, Matthew Parris, business guru Benjamin Cohen, Danny Finkelstein and other acquaintances who I have worked with, including councillors in other boroughs and government ministers such as Hugh Robertson and Helen Grant, to whom I was speaking to only last week?

      And you are always welcome to write columns for this site, David. Or you could go off and build a site of your own as an alternative, a bit like Barfwell has done with his state-funded lackey Creatura.

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