Weather woes

Weather woes, but whose fault is the mess
that has resulted on the streets of Blackburn?

According to the Councils ruling coalition of Tory, Lib-Dem and Darwen independent misfits it’s certainly not them.

“Residents are lazy, not tough enough, whinging, selfish and soft.”

These are just some of the claims made by Tory and Liberal Councillors and spokespeople during this period of terrible weather.

As usual with the Tories and their allies when things go badly wrong on their watch it is everyone else’s fault and not theirs. However, the facts point the blame right at where it needs to be. It shows that due to the lack of planning and penny pinching when it comes to providing adequate services the incompetence of those running the Council has led to the whole Borough grinding to a halt.

The list of problems is endless – schools are closed, businesses are suffering terribly, hospitals are being put under pressure and transport has all but stopped. Vulnerable residents who receive home care are being left isolated cold and hungry as their carers cannot reach them and they can’t get out to the shops.

This has happened despite the bad weather having been predicted for weeks. I mean this is the North of England and everyone knows at least once a year it does snow and we have icy conditions.

As usual the Council has failed to adequately plan for the inclement conditions. Despite the hilly nature of the area they have failed to supply salt bins where they are needed and unforgivably they have failed to fill up the few salt bins there are.

Cynicism has also surfaced as cars have been abandoned all over the Borough and the Council see an opportunity:

Helping the drivers by clearing the snow and ice? No that would need common sense and unfortunately our Council bosses lack that in abundance. Instead they spot a nice little earner and send traffic wardens out to put fixed penalty notices on all the cars stuck in the snow.

Hitting stranded motorists and saving money by keeping grit stocks dangerously low allows them to spend thousands more on their jollies including conference expenses and allowances.

Welcome to a winter wonderland Tory controlled Blackburn with Darwen style!

Happy New Year

Waste not, want not – but please keep it secret!

The Tory led Council has again been shown up for incompetence and wasting money after pumping nearly £100,0000 of taxpayers money into a hare-brained Lottery bid they knew they were ‘highly unlikely’ to get.

Last month the Lancashire Telegraph revealed the council had run up a bill of £93,121 to put plans together for a £20million transformation of Blackburn Museum they knew was highly unlikely ever to happen.

Tory Executive Member Michael Law-Riding, who approved the spending, has aspirations to be the next Member of Parliament for Blackburn which bodes well for the Town if he should ever get elected.

However I can reveal that this is only a proportion of what the Coalition of Tories, Liberal Democrats and Darwen Independents have wasted since coming into office in 2007. Recent analysis by the Labour Group has also found the council has spent at least £750,000 on other meaningless feasibility studies and have also bought three million pounds worth of unnecessary buildings that are lying vacant and unused.

This is yet another example of the coalition wasting money left right and centre, and again worryingly they have tried to keep these facts secret from the residents and voters of Blackburn and Darwen. However with the help of my Labour colleagues and the pages of the Lancashire Telegraph the shocking true facts have come out and they have yet again been caught out wasting Council Taxpayers money.

Tory councillor: disabled abuse free transport scheme

We all remember the statement from Tory Councillor Allan Cottam blaming pensioners for abusing the concessionary fare scheme. He claimed some were using their free passes every day, and as a result he had a £ 400k shortfall in his budget. We all knew this was a nonsense and the Labour Government had given Blackburn more than enough money to cover the scheme. In fact they had £ 400 k extra, which they duly gave away to their Tory friends in the Ribble Valley, Blackpool and Preston leaving many of our residents without buses as the Bus Company faced £1million cut from Councils.

At the November Executive Board meeting I asked Councillor Cottam, why since the introduction of a £1 fare each way on Community Transport, and the new 48 hour booking system, had the usage gone down 20%.

He was quite proud in announcing that since disabled users, and those who found it difficult to use the bus service had to pay this fare, they now found that they could use the regular bus service, (if they are lucky enough to have one). Wouldn’t it be great if a serious illness could just disappear if you had to pay £1?

I probed a little further and he quite openly stated that users, disabled and elderly, had been abusing this service and now there was less need than six months ago. He was joined by another Tory Councillor, John Slater, who admitted that the booking system was a shambles, there was not enough staff to cope with the system and having to give 48 hours notice meant in his words not mine “these old dears are booking the travel then not using it” though he did, with puckered pride in his chest, tell me he was going to introduce a” three strikes and you are out” system to stop people booking travel then not using it.

They both have completely missed the point. If you suffer from arthritis or some other disability that restricts your mobility, 48 hours can be a long time and conditions can worsen quite quickly. Let’s face it those suffering a serious illness have good days and bad days, some worse than others with no warning.

With the promise of “three strikes and you are out” residents who desperately need this form of travel are scared to book in case two days later they are unable to get out of their homes, they don’t feel very well, or the weather is too bad for them.

I suppose if I was a cynic I would say that this will lead to a drastic reduction in use and allow the Council to say there is no need of this service which will allow them to cut it completely saving a significant amount of money. Just as they have done with Community Centres, Arts in the Parks, and possibly King Georges Hall and Libraries in the near future,

Michael Law Riding, another Tory who has aspirations of taking on “Our Jack”, has cut the events budget from £ 250k down to £50k,getting ris of the wonderful Arts in the Parks, and at the same time cut the funding for books in the Library by 25% in two years, and is definitely going to close some leisure facilities in Blackburn.

The next battle cry from the Tories will be, very few people use the Library, why waste money on having it.

Watch this space, because low cost airlines could learn from these guys.

A Tory keeps his promise (it could be a tabloid headline)

It is very rarely I agree with Colin Rigby, but on the article below from the Lancashire Telegraph I did. It was extremely worrying that the Council had failed to spend over £ 20 million. All this money left at the end of a financial year meant that there had been severe cuts in spending, on day to day issues like repairing roads, providing benefit advice services, providing care for our elderly, money to local communities, bus services and general street cleansing.

Blackburn with Darwen council’s unspent millions

COUNCIL bosses have admitted they are concerned about “vast” amounts of taxpayers’ money left unspent at the end of the year.

Ahead of the end of the financial year this month, it has been revealed that Blackburn with Darwen council has spent £28.8million on major projects like roads and buildings – just 55 per cent of the cash it set aside a year ago.

Tory resources chief Coun Colin Rigby said: “I share some of Kate’s concerns regarding our inability to spend money during the financial year.

“Fifty-five per cent is a worry to me and we are trying to work on it to ensure we don’t have these vast amount of money at the end of the next year.”

Well for once Councillor Rigby has kept his promise he has done a Viv Richards ,spend spend, spend. For those much younger than me, she was a lady who won a lot of money on the pools, did not know how to handle it, wasted it all and ended up penniless. The Council is now in the same boat, facing huge cuts in service to compensate for the foolish spending over the last few months,

Money wasted, not on day to day services, but on buying buildings for crazy money, Bentley’s, a building that was bought on the back of a lottery bid that even Councillor Rigby admitted had a very slim chance of succeeding, wasting £ 50K on the bid and over £ 500k on the building. An undertakers, again well over £ 500K, a printing business, £400K, and another undisclosed sum, (sorry I cannot say the amount , but it is higher than the two I have just mentioned) or I will be reported to standards for criticising the Council for wasting even more money).
All this at a time when properties are at their lowest value for years and we all need to tighten our belts and spend wisely.

Councillor Rigby, Executive Member for Resources, has kept his promise not to under spend by this amount next year. There is still six months to go, and there is no chance of an under spend, he and his Coalition Colleagues have wasted millions of pounds. We all now have to face the consequences of this waste, cuts in streets cleansing, maintaining our older people’s homes, resurfacing our pot filled roads, bus services and grants to community groups.

Perhaps they are setting out the same principles as the Tory Leader of Barnet Council. The “ budget airline” Council has advocated the “ no frills” public services, where families get less but pay more and only the wealthy few can afford the level of services they want..

Cut services in the areas with the highest need, and develop new ones for the wealthiest residents.

Liberals and Tories baffle with science or blind with bull****

The founding principle of local government is that citizens have the right to influence the decisions that affect their lives and their communities. Citizens need to be confident that when decisions are made about things that affect them, it is informed by their concerns and not just about those running the service. Services can and should be designed around the needs of individuals not around the convenience of institutions. Resources should be directed to areas of concern that has a detrimental affect on Blackburn becoming a thriving place for all who live, work and visit the Borough.

For many months now at both Executive Board and full Council meetings when challenged on decisions made the Councillors in charge of services at the Town Hall can never answer questions posed. They claim that these decisions have been made by a LSP, LPSB, PLLACE, ELCHEX or a whole list of other bodies. They claim it is partnership working, encouraged by a Labour Government.

Partnership working is something we as a Labour Group welcome. We believe there is a whole host of organisations that can help a Council deliver the priorities set by local residents. We believe that public money and public bodies, whether Police, Health or Colleges should all contribute to the well being of residents. What we do not believe in is a whole host of quangos that is not driven by local needs but driven by highly paid Officers who can baffle the Coalition with Science, we believe in transparency and accountability.

The attitude of the Tories and Liberals in Blackburn is that these highly paid officers must know what they are talking about; after all they are getting a lot of money to do it. Where Michael Lee and his Coalition members fall down is in their ability to justify the decisions taken in their name. They cannot answer even the simplest of questions as to why a particular decision was made.

In turn they try and blind us with bull****.

I recently attended a LSP Board meeting. This board has been going for many years and I fully respect the commitment of the members of it. They have always had the best interest of residents at heart, they complimented the work of the Council and brought a business perspective to the decision making process. What they did not do, was make the decisions, but looked at how they could help in improving the quality of life and prospects of residents.

Now it is seems that the Council has given this board, and many others, the responsibility for millions of pounds worth of public money, but with no accountability, no transparency nor open to any challenge. At the latest LSP meeting I discovered that performance in the Borough is failing in some of our of key areas. The board was presented with a number of measures that were reported wrongly, baselines were reduced which made the achievements look better.

The worrying point was that no one apart from myself noticed, everyone was very complimentary about the direction of travel, what they did not realise was that based on the information they were presented with was that they were blindly going backwards

Just some of the concerns I raised were the targets of:

  1. Reducing the NEET group, three years on and huge resources for this area we see very little change.
  2. A target was set for the number of BME employees; this has gone backwards with a target set of 12% and an achievement of only 9%.
  3. Employees with disabilities again has gone backwards from 2.5 % to 2 %
  4. Children in our care achieving level 4 maths a baseline of 60% with an achievement rate of only 50% with a target for next year of 58%, no mention on the report that we have failed this target.
  5. Improve the performance of white working class boys achieving 5 + GCSE’s baseline last year was 35%. But this year reported as 17% with a target of 24%, achievement two years ago was 38%.
  6. Pakistani boys achieving 5 GCSE’s with a baseline of 28% but two years ago we achieved 39%, so why are we now setting a target of 34%.

Despite raising the same questions at two separate meetings, not one of the Executive Members of the Council could answer any of the questions I posed.

Partnership boards are based on trust for the mutual benefit of all, it is important that they are presented with accurate information to assist them in their support to Council.

It appears the current rulers in Blackburn do not want the responsibility for which they receive their allowances, but are happy to sit back, tale their allowances and continue to allow those who do take the decisions to be either be blinded with science or baffled with bull****.