Scarborough Council Spending Cuts – Fit For Purpose – In My View By Nigel Ward

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Scarborough Council Spending Cuts – Fit For Purpose – In My View By Nigel Ward

Fit For Purpose – In My View By Nigel Ward

Scarborough Borough Council Budget CutsFollowing the announcement of the ConDem government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, Scarborough Borough Council (like every County, Dictrict and City Council in the land) went out to public consultation, ostensibly soliciting the opinions of the citizenry on the matter of where cuts could most reasonably be tolerated.

I have before me a document entitled “Streonshalh Ward Profile”, produced by SBC Policy & Performance and dated April 2011. It is a document comprising 39 colour-printed sides of A4, outlining a presentation of the Council’s findings in respect of public opinion on SAVINGS. Rather than reproducing the entire document, I will select certain results as being worthy of interest. I make no apology for selecting those that, taken together, best demonstrate my point.

From a long list of categories in which members of the public supported the Council spending LESS of the tax-payers’ money, I have constrained my selections to only those in which a clear MAJORITY of at least 6 out of every 10 supported making particular savings.

  • 61.9% supported spending LESS on CULTURAL FACILITIES
  • 67.4% supported spending LESS on GRANTS TO AREA COMMITTEES
  • 96.6% supported spending LESS on MAYORAL & CIVIC BUDGETS

The first of these is an interesting case when one recalls the extraordinary amount of money pumped into CULTURAL FACILITIES – which, in line with policy, SBC construes to mean TOURIST ATTRACTIONS.

I refer, of course, to the £6.5M refurbishment of Scarborough Spa (SBC’s figure: http://www.scarborough.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=15924 ), soon to be the subject of a bitterly opposed further expenditure of “up to” £35M to protect the Spa from coastal erosion (http://www.scarborougheveningnews.co.uk/news/local/163-35-million-sea-defence-approval-1-1387985 ). I hesitate to mention the on-going fiasco of SBC’s profoundly secretive ‘tiff’ with Apollo Leisure over the dysfunctionality of the Open Air Theatre (£3.5M) (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-16788447 ). I think we may readily agree that the Spa and the OAT form part of the CULTURAL FACILITIES that a MAJORITY (61.9%) supported spending LESS on.

But nothing is straightforward. A couple of pages later, I encounter a table indicating the percentage of people who are “satisfied” with various elements of the Council’s public services. Again, I will limit my remarks; this time to those cases in which only around a quarter of people are “satisfied”.

  • 26.7% are satisfied with THEATRES/CONCERT HALLS.

In other words, 73.3% are LESS than “satisfied”. A big majority. So what is going on here? SIX out of TEN think that SBC should spend less on cultural facilities, yet almost  THREE out of FOUR are presently less than satisfied.

Is that self-contradictory?

No. I think not. What it says to me is that the MAJORITY of the public think that SBC could spend less – if only it spent more wisely. Much more wisely.

  • 25.8% are SATISFIED with CUSTOMER FIRST.

In other words, THREE out of FOUR are “LESS THAN SATISFIED”. That bears repeating.

THREE out of FOUR are “LESS THAN SATISFIED”” with Customer FIRST.

Let me ask those of you who are in business the following question:

How long would you expect to stay in business if THREE out of FOUR of your CUSTOMERS were “LESS THAN SATISFIED”?

Count the days. Count the days . . .

  • 15.0% are SATISFIED with PARKING SERVICES.

In other words, more than FIVE out of SIX are “LESS THAN SATISFIED”. But very soon, we are to have another consultation thrust upon us; a consultation soliciting our views (actually, seeking to document our acquiescence) on a zonal system of on-street parking in Whitby (originally justified by the need to finance the Park-&-Ride), that will have as its conclusion that Whitby residents will be PAYING for the privilege to grab a park (if they can) within their own zone (and nowhere else), just as is presently the case anywhere in town and FREE OF CHARGE. What a fantastic strategy to convert the FIVE out of SIX are “LESS THAN SATISFIED” residents into true believers in the Council’s competence and wisdom!

  • 25.2% are SATISFIED with ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

In other words, THREE out of FOUR are “LESS THAN SATISFIED”.

SBC’s Environmental Health Services handles bins, litter, fly-tipping, pollution, food hygiene and public conveniences, etc.

Like the cultural facilities mentioned above, these things fall within the purview of SBC’s Head of Tourism & Culture and Harbour Supremo, Mr Brian Bennett, DipISR – which qualification, by the way, I soon discovered, via Google, was the standard abbreviation for a Diploma from the Institute of Sport & Remedial Massage – though Brian insists his credential is from the Institute of Sport & Recreation Management, a private limited company with an Experian credit-rating of 1 = Extreme Risk!). Whatever. It is far from impressive by comparison with his predecessor as harbour supremo, John Riby BSc Feng.

I wrote to Brian Bennett on 8th March 2012, on the subject of the recurrent oil-pollution throughout Whitby Harbour and the Esk estuary, and the disturbing and dramatic decrease in the resident swan population from twenty-three (when I arrived in Whitby in 2001) to just two, today.

No response.

In the past there has been no coherent response from Brian Bennett on many other matters, including:

  • the true condition of the Lighthouses (East and West).
  • his inability to produce the NYCC document that he claims authorised him to permit the acceptance by SBC of “Me Too!” vouchers against retail sales – a document that NYCC has confirmed, in an FOIA response, does not exist.
  • his misinformation on the matter of the fact that, although both SBC and WTC have budgeted the cost of cleaning and maintaining the Ruswarp Public Conveniences for at least the past two years (and thereby have charged the public for those services) – in fact, that service has not been performed by either Council – it has fallen to two lady volunteers recruited by Whitby in Bloom, to whom our thanks are due.

I am waiting even now for the inspection, maintenance, Risk Assessment and public liability indemnity documents pertaining to the collapse of the Scoresby Monument.

I do not know what part Brian Bennett has played in the decision to put the Scarborough Spa and Whitby Pavilion Complex out to tender in the private sector. I do know, from an internal source that, until the huge row kicked off between SBC and Apollo Leisure over the Open Air Theatre recently, the very same Apollo Leisure was ear-marked as the successful bidder. What priceless ineptitude.

At Whitby Town (Parish) Council, a couple of months ago, SBC Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Tourism Councillor David Jeffels (a ‘two-hatted’ Councillor, also with NYCC) told us that (and I quote) “SBC has no Statutory Duty to support tourism at all”. He seemed oblivious to the conclusion that he had just denied not only his own raison d’être, but also that of Brian Bennett.

Article 19 of ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ (1948) declares:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

I claim that right now to express that, in my view, the present Department of Tourism & Culture at Scarborough Borough Council is an utter shambles – and will remain so whilst it is in the hands of the present incumbents of the positions of Head of Tourism & Culture and Harbour Supremo, and Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Tourism – who are demonstrably NOT FIT FOR PURSUIT.

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7 Comments

  1. Millicent April 9, 2012 at 10:20 pm - Reply

    Did anyone from Whitby actually fill in the consultation review?

  2. J.G.Harston April 9, 2012 at 11:35 pm - Reply

    96% approve of cutting civic ceremonial budgets, which is about thruppence happeny, but only 61% approve of cutting the £35 million culture budget. So, let’s cut the civic budget, as that’s what everybody approves of.

    Where’s the option for “I believe in publically-funded public services, raise the money to do it”.

  3. Just 66 votes April 10, 2012 at 9:32 am - Reply

    Nigel
    Thank you for this. What do you want us to do about it? I’m with you.

    • Nigel Ward April 10, 2012 at 9:53 am - Reply

      I would like to see a credible opposition to the disgustingly self-interested Tory hegemony. And I would like to see an end to people falling victim to the ‘Divide & Conquer’ strategy that has kept them in power in this Borough for far too long.

      Together, we can take them down! They are dishonest and they are incompetent. This morning, I happened to be reading the word’s of Kurt Vonnegut, through the mouth of his character Kilgore Trout. Not verbatin, but basically this:

      “Every town and village is a world asset”.

      I will fight for my town.

  4. Bob Turner April 10, 2012 at 10:26 am - Reply

    Clearly Spinmeister Borough Council are fully in accord with all other authorities whereby they wilfully refuse to see the wood for the trees.
    Whilst on the subject of things arboreal, why has the EU loaned China, the second largest economy in the world, 250M Euros to plant trees, with similar loans going to India and Brazil? This at a time when Westminster Wallies are talking of what will effectively be a conservatory/new boiler ‘tax’ that will cost the taxpayers of this country thousands of pounds more than necessary if they dare have the temerity, or no option in the case of boiler replacement, to make changes to their home.
    It is hardly surprising that our local authorities treat us with such blatant contempt when they are set such a ludicrous example by those that are allegedly responsible for running this country. Perhaps running this country into the ground would be a better description.
    I recently attended a County Council Budgetary ‘Consultation’ in my area. What a farce and yet another classic example of this frequently pointless procedure. The barely concealed disinterest from the County Council officials present was a joy to behold, as was the multi-paged handout that informed us of what a difficult time the Council were having spending (or not in many important areas)our money!
    My question as to why the County Council were outsourcing some service provision to private PROFIT making organisations went down like the proverbial lead balloon. Their usual and very brief ‘non answer’ was swiftly followed by closure of the meeting.
    It is clear that authority doesn’t want or value public consultation. They have their ‘Master Strategy Plans’ and the last thing they need is the taxpaying riff raff poking their oar in and rocking their cosy little cruiser. Despite this meeting being par for the course I will continue to attend other ‘consultations’ when and where I can, if only for the levels of unintended discomfort that can be created by asking even the most innocuous (off script)questions!

  5. Nigel Ward April 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    Once again Brian Bennett has side-stepped his responsibilities. Just like Mike Cockerill.

    FOIA acknowledgement in:

    “a referral has been made to the responsible officer to collate a response” – that would be Head of Tourism & Culture and Harbour Supremo Brian Bennett – with whom the responsibility clearly rests. So why has he lumbered Karen Crosier with this? But what the hell – let’s give Nigel the runaround.

    —– Original Message —–
    From: Karen Crosier
    To: Nigel
    Sent: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 1:55 PM
    Subject: FOIA2006 – William Scoresby (father and son) Monument

    FOIA No: 2006
    Date of Receipt: 10 April 2012
    Last Date for Response: 9 May 2012
    File Ref: CP01/00000137

    Thank you for your written communication of 10 April 2012. The information that you require is not included within the Council’s formal publication scheme and a referral has been made to the responsible officer to collate a response.

    You may expect to receive a response to your request by 9 May 2012, that is within twenty working days of its receipt by the Council.

    In some circumstances a fee may be payable and if that is the case, we will let you know. A fees notice will be issued to you, and you will be required to pay before we will proceed to deal with your request.

    Please ensure that any further communication in relation to this matter is sent by you to the Freedom of Information Officer at the above address quoting the reference in the subject line of this communication.

    Kind regards

    Freedom of Information Officer

  6. Nigel Ward April 11, 2012 at 7:18 am - Reply

    Do these inspection logs, Risk Assessments etc exist – or not. My information, from within, is that they do not. We shall see:

    —– Original Message —–
    From: Nigel
    To: Karen Crosier
    Cc: Tom Brown
    Sent: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 8:13 AM
    Subject: FOIA2006 – William Scoresby (father and son) Monument [2]

    Ms Karen CROSIER – Freedom of Information Office

    Karen,

    Thank you for your acknowledgement and FOIA #2006

    I note that you state that “a referral has been made to the responsible officer to collate a response”.

    Without doubt, the responsible officer in this case can be none other than the Head of Tourism & Culture and Harbour Supremo Mr Brian Bennett – clearly the proper person to whom to address my request for information in the first place, and indeed the person to whom I (rightly) DID address my request for information.

    Equally clearly, Brian has passed my request to you, and now you are informing me that you have passed it back to Brian. Is it such a ‘hot potato’?

    I am requesting, in the public interest, e-copies of documents that must, if they exist, be held on file. Please produce them.

    If they do not exist, the Council has no justification in prevaricating, and has an obvious duty to state forthwith that the documents do not exist.

    You are perhaps unaware that my request for information has been supported by elected Whitby Town (Parish) Councillor Tom Brown, whose email to Brian Bennett I copy below for your ease of reference. I am aware, also, of other requests for information, in the public interest.

    I would ask you to note that I find it disrespectful to be address without appellation. My preference is to be addressed by my given name – ‘Nigel’ – and most certainly not by any title or use of my family name. Please adhere to my preference in future correspondence.

    I would also ask you to adhere to the recognised best practice of including the text of all previous email within a given ‘thread’ of correspondence within the textual body of each subsequent email – thus providing all parties with a convenient and chronological record of the correspondence thus far. Thank you.

    Kind regards,

    Nigel

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This Sliding Bar can be switched on or off in theme options, and can take any widget you throw at it or even fill it with your custom HTML Code. Its perfect for grabbing the attention of your viewers. Choose between 1, 2, 3 or 4 columns, set the background color, widget divider color, activate transparency, a top border or fully disable it on desktop and mobile.