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:
- Reducing the NEET group, three years on and huge resources for this area we see very little change.
- 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%.
- Employees with disabilities again has gone backwards from 2.5 % to 2 %
- 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.
- 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%.
- 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****.