Friday, 8 January 2010

Tory mismanagement costs Brighton Council £1m

The mind truly boggles sometimes.

Economic times are hard for us all, Brighton businesses are struggling, unemployment is on the rise - and the council is frittering money away: about £1m so far this year, and it's only the second week of January!

On Monday we learned that the local taxpayer is going to have to meet the costs of a new £500,000 caretaker's cottage at the Falmer Academy - because the council demolished the old one by accident.

And next week the cabinet looks set to give the go-ahead to a £1m facelift of a city centre car park, half of the costs of which were only deemed necessary after work had already started.

Is it just me, or do the council's political masters and mistresses seem completely incompetent here?  The Falmer Academy looks set to be a disaster for the council: already staff are up in arms about pay, the bills are mounting up and academics and teachers seem to be queueing up to criticise the plans. It seems it's not just the children of Moulsecomb and Coombe Road who will end up paying the price for this privatisation fiasco.

And as for the car park? Couldn't the council find a better way to promote sustainable transport in the city?

Sooner or later voters will kick these idiots out of office in favour of a Green Party administration - and when they do I promise this: there will be no more academy schools in Brighton, no privatisation of essential services, no demolition of perfectly good cottages, and a  sustainable transport plan for the city that sees our dependence on ever-more car journeys into the centre banished back into twentieth century where it belongs. We need better, and more affordable, publicly-owned public transport - and improved facilities for cyclists and pedestrians before we spent vast sums of tapayers' cash on car parks.


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  2. Why is the demolished caretaker's cottage specifically the Tory Council's fault? Aren't there cross-party planning committees or local council officials who would and should have more culpability over this?

    It does sound as if someone has made an absolute pig's ear of this but where does the other half a million MISMANAGEMENT(your word) come from?

    Also I'd agree that re-furbishing a car-park does not sit at all with trying to have a sustainable transport policy but do you think that money will not be quickly re-couped through exorbitant parking charges?

    I'll be honest Ben, all you ever do is criticise Tory this and Tory that. As far as I can see, I might as well vote Labour as vote Green for all the distance you put between yourselves and Labour.

  3. BrightonFan

    Thanks for your comments. You've answered a number of specific questions, and I will try to answer them all...

    Firstly, and simply, it's the Tory council's fault because the Tory Council took the decision to go ahead and do it! The demolished caretaker's cottage at Falmer was a blunder by the administration of the council, which happens to be Tory. I've no idea if it would have happened under a Labour administration but I can categorically state that it wouldn't have happened under a Green Party one - as we would not have given the go-ahead for an academy to replace Falmer High School in the first place and the question of who meets the costs of demolishing a cottage as part of the works wouldn't have arisen.

    Secondly, no. While there is a cross-party planning committee, this was a decision taken under powers delegated to the all-Tory cabinet.

    Thirdly, the other half a million comes from the spiralling costs of the refurbishment of the Lanes car park: money that could have been saved if the project had been better managed.

    Fourthly, I suspect you're right, and the money will eventually be recouped through very high parking charges. Meanwhile, however, an opportunity to use public money to tackle issues of congestion, road safety, access to the centre - and air quality - will have been squandered. That's my point.

    And finally, this post was all letting people know how incompetent our local Tory Council can be - and I've tried to include a few positive ideas about what we would do differently too.

    There are a number of key reasons why I think Labour, both locally and nationally, are no better able to represent the wishes of local people, and I often write about them on this blog. I am genuinely surprised if, as a regular reader, you think I'm not trying to explain and expose this political gulf.

    Here's just a few to be getting on with - there's plenty more where these came from - I could go on all day if I didn't have other things to do!

    1. Labour's support for the transfer of the city's housing stock to Housing Associations and the private sector. I believe passionately that councils should continue to play a key role as a social landlord.

    2. Labour support for the privatisation of Falmer High School. I believe the academy programme is a thinly-veiled attempt to blackmail councils into handing over education facilities to the private sector in exchange for investment cash and new facilities that should be being provided anyway. The ultimate losers will be the children - like my son - living in areas with academies the only secondary schools serving the local catchment area.

    3. The ongoing war in Afghanistan.

    4. Labour's illiberal and militaristic approach to just about everything, from ID-cards to retaining the Trident nuclear missile system.

    OK you get the point. There's loads more of this, not just here, but at