Thursday 16 September 2010

Recession? What Recession? Revisited

You may remember reading here last year of a Liberal Democrat Council's scheme to spend £8.5m - 10% of its council tax receipts, in a recession - on what I described as the world's first nannying theme park. The council's promotional video is featured here if you'd care to refresh your memory.

Despite the Conservative opposition warning that this publicly-funded, vainglorious nonsense was quite probably going to end up as an expensive white elephant, the Liberals pushed on and commissioned it anyway ... without a public consultation.

By way of update, an eagle-eyed fellow jewel robber has pointed me to this article which shows that the Tories were wrong ... it's an even bigger disaster than they had originally warned.

Schools have delivered a resounding snub to Sutton’s controversial Life Centre, leaving taxpayers faced with a hefty bill to support the project.

The life skills centre, which should cost Sutton residents nothing, needs at least 48,000 pupils – about 450 schools – to turn a meagre £9,500 profit.

But with the opening just weeks away, dismal early booking figures reveal the council has only booked 42 schools – just 2,780 pupils – leaving a £190,000 bill to finance its first seven months.

Coun [Graham] Tope said: “The take-up by the schools is disappointing so far. One reason for this is that it is actually a difficult concept to explain."
Graham, dear, if a concept is 'difficult to explain', didn't it occur to you that it is something that people had never even considered, so therefore have absolutely no need for, and thus will likely not use? And that's quite apart from the fact that it's extreme arrogance for a council to believe it should be spending taxpayer funds on such a folly.

After reading this, I popped over to the blog of Paul Scully, a local councillor who slated the idea at the time. He doesn't appear to have mentioned this latest development yet but, at time of writing, his last article shows that the barmy Lib Dems in Sutton still haven't stopped spending huge amounts of money on hare-brained schemes.

The wooden menagerie** pictured opposite (below, actually) has been concreted into the pavement on Sutton High Street where there was previously an open space. The metal globe sculpture has been relocated so that people avoiding the wooden fish to go to All Bar One and the Civic Office crash straight into it.

Lest we forget within the apparent benefits for this £3million splurge of your cash was the statement "Wider footways, better road crossings and less clutter will create a people-friendly zone."

I'm not sure that mocking laughter was the reaction first envisaged by the Lib Dem Council cabinet who approved this project, but that is what appears to be the first reaction of those walking by.

We are still waiting for the 'green wall' to be installed on the face of Wilkinsons, which involves a lawn to be laid vertically up the front of the shop. When challenged over such expenditure, the Lib Dem administration claim that the £3million would have just be spent in another borough.
That last sentence really jumps out of the page, doesn't it? The idea that a council should be spending money for the hell of it, merely so that it doesn't get spent elsewhere, is as staggering as it is irresponsible.

All in all, this adds up to over £11m spent, in less than 12 months, on schemes which a local authority should arguably not even be contemplating. Tell us again, Mark Serwotka, about how public sector spending cuts aren't necessary.

Finally, as a cherry on the disastrous and wasteful cake, whilst looking around for more information on Sutton's town centre 'improvements' highlighted by Scully, it would appear that a launch party is being organised featuring an outfit called 'The Bureau of Silly Ideas' ... how generous of the Lib Dem councillors to entertain in the High Street on their days off, eh?

** They've only gone and named them too - Ninja the duck; Nemo the dolphin; Sephi the cat; Sparkles the swan; Olivia the pony; Terri the snail; Sonic the frog; Charlie the chicken; Mieow the cat; Sona the fish; Tommy the horse and Freddie the duck.


Bill said...

Ours blew almost 200K, small beer by comparison I know, on a lovely landscaped bus terminus knowing full well within 12 months the local water company the foul United Utilities were going to dig it all up and install a 50 million gallon storm drain tank AND re-landscape the terminus.

The same spend it or lose argument was rolled out and the locals didn't bat an eyelid because they truly believe there is nothing they can do to stop the council from behaving like this.

I shit you not.

Just remembered our Labour run council blew £1,000,000 on turning a the busiest road in town into a town square because the town didn't have one and it decided we needed a 'civic space'.
It's a few years back mind but all it is ever used for is a Christmas lights switch on every year and the odd protest meeting.
Reason being, as was pointed out at the time by many different people in the local press, it faces NORTH so doesn't get any sun and the wind blows up from the docks round the town hall that forms one side and hits the civic hall on the opposite side before exiting down the street running up the other side of the town hall.
If the cretins had put a roof over it they would have actually created something useful a fucking massive wind tunnel!

Rant over.
In all my blogger word verification experience this is my first real word "aquatic"!

Bill said...

Forgot to add the wanker of a councillor who had he casting vote lost his seat at the election before last and became an 'adviser' to BAE submarines having never worked in the shipyard and been a career Labour councillor all his life!

Who says crime doesn't pay!!!

SadButMadLad said...

Do you mean this kind of green wall?

Unknown said...

The "sculpture" on the bottom right of the picture reminds me of a dog turd.
Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

11 million quid? I could have the Pope over for tea! Not quite enough to stretch to scones, though.

J Bonington Jagworth said...

"a lawn to be laid vertically"

I wonder who gets to mow it?

I only ask, because a local landscaping firm has recently lost a council contract to a lower bid from Connaught, who are now in receivership, largely because they issued stupidly low bids to get work...

TURTLE said...

I think it looks really cool. Here are some more ways to spend our money..
"A replica of the Eiffel tower". I think that would look good just outside the station to give it a continental feel. Maybe a couple of pyramids & some sort of leaning tower with gondola's going round the outside. Oh and can we have a "SUTTON EYE" Please.. & the "Hanging Gardens Of Beddington". and all surrounded by the "GREAT WALL OF SUTTON" (visible from space of course).. If you cant do the wall then I dont mind a scenic monorail instead.. Thanks...xx

Ian R Thorpe said...

What recession Dick? The one that is making councils and government agencies sack nurses, doctors, guys who mend holes in the road, soldiers firemen and paramedics in order to save essential projects like this.

JuliaM said...

"That last sentence really jumps out of the page, doesn't it? The idea that a council should be spending money for the hell of it, merely so that it doesn't get spent elsewhere, is as staggering as it is irresponsible."

It's no dafter than the annual 'spend all our budget quickly or we won't get the same amount - or greater - in next year's budget' jamboree known by all council departments.

Scully said...

It gets better. Sutton Council has just blown £100,000 'launching' the revamped High Street. 250 people turned up to watch some performance artists dangling from a crane. That's £400 for each member of the audience.

The Council hired Cafe Nero for a drinks do for the VIPs, oblivious to the fact that the only independent coffee shop on the High Street had closed the previous year.

A spokesman for TfL explained how they had created a welcoming space. Well, the space was there before, they've just changed the bricks and filled it with crap. Despite the launch over the weekend, they've started digging some of it up again to lay some cable to make the lights work.

(BTW, half of the £100k was from the Arts Council so any readers not from Sutton, you've put your hand in your pocket for this too I'm afraid.)