Public spending

 

        During the last election I was careful to explain the poor state of the nation’s finances, and to say when challenged to back some new local spending project that it would be very unlikely to take place whoever won, because the financial position was so dire.

        I have to confess I was wrong about how much spending a future government would undertake.           On my journey to my London office today I passed several substantial road works, with contractors paving over parts of the highway, resurfacing and painting blue cycle ways on  the Embankment. Large numbers of new granite kerbs are being introduced, extra pieces of pavement fitted and new centre reservations and crossings introduced. We read about the increases in the aid and EU expenditures as well.

          In the most infuriating category  I read about the considerable number of new jobs still being created by certain local Councils. My office doormat still receives  glossy brochures and consultation documents from various parts of  the public sector.  It is perplexing to read about possible job losses of front line public sector employees like  nurses and police, when we see around us evidence of nice to have or undesirable expenditures at a time of  restraint.

          I would welcome more examples of needless or less essential spending from bloggers to get a better picture from around the country of what are the public sector’s priorities with the money it does have.

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54 Comments

  1. norman
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    There’s a local park in front of my house, has been for years, with swings, etc. that I used to play in as a child and now my children do.

    The council decided that what this park needed, after 30 odd years, was a wide winding paved path through the middle of it. The park itself is bounded by a crescent shaped street so the new path doesn’t save any time for pedestrians. I have absolutely no idea why it was done. Another item to maintain and the amount of grassy area has been greatly reduced. The fact it cuts through the middle makes playing football and other ball games nigh impossible.

    This happened around a month ago.

    Also, speed bumps are appearing on more and more streets, and at T-junctions there are what I think of as super speed bumps, massive raised sections of road encompassing the whole of the cross section of the ‘T’.

    • Framer
      Posted April 17, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

      Councils, like all public sector organisations, have budgets largely based on last year’s expenditure, which means a lot of the time they have to dream up reasons to spend money. More paths are perfect examples of pointless expenditure that will win brownie points. They also get rid of dangerous, untidy vegetation.

      The crime is having recurrent budgets.

      And in the civil service, in my experience, if you chose to spend less than last year you were the worst in the world for, as was said, indeed shouted, you never know when you might really need to spend money and you wouldn’t be able to get the necessary budget upgrade.

    • rose
      Posted April 17, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

      In our city they pave over the grass – which is badly needed and in very short supply – so that they can just have one man using a leaf blower instead of having to look after grass. This puts further pressure on the remaining blades of grass, so they too are paved over. Eventually there will be none left.

      • rose
        Posted April 17, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

        But there will still be armies of officers and managers in charge of “green spaces”, the definition of which now includes traffic islands and completely paved places, with nothing green about them at all.

  2. Sean Lever
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    John, my own conservative council can’t bring themselves to stop their “free” bi weekly newspaper. We could have save £100k a year if we’d had the collective sense to scrap it. The union modernisation fund would be an easy one to get rid of too.

  3. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    In today’s Sunday Times, I read that the coalition government had quietly introduced another pay on the never-never scheme called tax increment financing (Tif). This apparently allows councils to borrow money to build new roads, rail routes and other types of infrastructure in the hope that these improvements will attract new business and jobs to deprived areas. To further the alarm, it is reported that it is likely that, just like the PFI, public bodies will be allowed to keep such deals off their balance sheets. Putting councils in control of the risk business doesn’t sound a bright idea to me. Is this just another of Cable’s madcap ideas or do Conservatives support it too? I have long thought that our economic mess won’t be resolved in my lifetime but now I can see it out living my grandchildren too.

  4. acorn
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    How about the Turner art gallery at Benefits-on-Sea. £17 million: majority from the taxpayers of Kent. Is it a good investment that will generate future income for Margate; you have to hope so.

    PS. Interesting conversation Friday last; I paraphrase. ” … there are actually about 108 pieces of primary and secondary legislation for employers to trip over … there are about thirty odd bits of employer affecting legislation, currently going through parliament … it’s a nightmare for employment lawyers, never mind employers … when I advise “chance-of-winning”, it will rarely be above 70%, even for a rock solid case … tribunals come up with some quite random judgements … sometimes you think they just tossed a coin … “

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 17, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      Agreed employment law is a job creation scheme for parasites and a conspiracy against free contracts between employers and employed. It benefits no one but lawyers and malingerers and other hangers on the the system.

      • rose
        Posted April 18, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

        Yet when the public wants them to keep order, they say they have no powers: if there isn’t a specific byelaw against each bit of what they euphemistically describe as Anti Social Behaviour, both police and council officerswill say there is nothing they can do: they each pass the buck, and don’t even seem to feel ashamed that little old ladies are stepping into the breach.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted April 19, 2011 at 6:09 am | Permalink

      I don’t know the gallery in question but £20 with anyone who cares to wager says it can’t even meet its running costs in five years or less, let alone make any capital repayments for the initial investment.

  5. Gary
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I suppose that we could vie to outdo each other in a sackcloth beauty parade, or we could go after the perpetrators of this bust, the bankers. Strip them of bonuses obtained even as their businesses were bankrupt, liquidate their businesses and write them off where insolvent and jail the petpetrators who missold derivatives, used fraudulent signing on mortgages and overstated reserves, after open trials.

  6. StevenL
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Procurement is a joke in local government. £5 for a £1.99 ringbinder, £60 for a £20 train ticket.

    No one haggles and the ‘approved’ suppliers everyone has to use just rip them off.

  7. Chris Woolley
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    An example of waste that really irritates me is any work being done on the Royal succession. This is not a vital issue, or even in the top 100 priorities, and yet government and civil servants are spending time on it, apparently.
    I would suggest that whoever is wasting this resource should be instantly dismissed, and their cost saved.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

      I agree appointing a King or Queen is not fair by its very nature making it gender neutral is just an absurd and rather irrelevant just for pathetic political appearance.

  8. rose
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    The coalition is looking increasingly like a marriage between an able and hardworking husband, and a bored spoilt wife. First the voting system is given to Clegg to play with, to keep him from straying, and now the royal succession. This is unwise extravagance on the part of the hardworking husband, and with his present means he can’t afford it.

    And what a can of worms it will turn out to be. An end to discrimination? Poppycock! The younger siblings would continue to be discriminated against, together with the rest of the monarch’s subjects, even if the eldest daughter is now picked out to succeed instead of the eldest son. And what about all the foreigners? They would be discriminated against much more heinously, by virtue of being foreign.

    He would also be affecting laws of inheritance overall, including the thousand year old custom that you do not distinguish between daughters in the absence of a son. They are treated equally as co-heiresses, should there be no male heir. Are the younger daughters in such a situation now to be disinherited in the name of anti- discrimination? As with so much else he sounds off about, he should do his homework first, and he badly needs a tutor.

    The whole point of male primogeniture is that the sexes are different. The rest of the world still thinks this. Because we are now so decadent, we can’t imagine going into battle or dealing with anything physically unpleasant. As Gordon Brown wanted, most jobs are now “middle class”. So women, it is now believed, can do anything men can do, and vice versa. In writing this Russian revolutionary principle into the monarchical succession, we wouldn’t be changing the attitudes of the rest of the world, where life can still be quite rough. But at least one bored middle class liberal seems to think we would.

    • rose
      Posted April 17, 2011 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      This is not to say the Queen has not been better than her uncle, or that the Princess Royal might not be better than her younger brothers: just that there are hidden ramifications to be considered before unravelling things, and it may not be wise to spend borrowed or printed money on unravelling them at the moment.

      • cosmic
        Posted April 17, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        It’s naive meddling for the sake of meddling and it does have some consequences, such as approval in countries where the Queen is still head of state. A costly piece of tinkering, which is completely uncalled for and no doubt with unintended consequences.

    • simple soul
      Posted April 17, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      But come the next election Mr Clegg would be able to say, “Yes, it’s been tough going, but I have given the man in the street the three things he has always longed for above all: Preferential voting, abolition of male primogeniture, and revision of the Act of Succession.”

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 17, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      Undesirable expenditures that actually produce more harm than good Is a good place to start – no shortage of them.

      The “Equality and Human Rights Commission” a disharmony incubation organisation propaganda unit.

      In fact nearly all public information/propaganda units.

      Anything to do with C02 or claiming to be green or renewable but is clearly not even at a superficial inspection.

      Anything to do with coloured tarmac, big islands, bike signs and more traffic lights far too many already.

      The BBC which is nearly all just socialist propaganda or complete drivel.

      Hospitals and Schools would clearly be much better if they were paid for by the users directly rather than have the money taxed and very inefficiently (perhaps 30% returned) as very poor quality rationed heath care or left wing school education propaganda.

      All payment to politicians which warp them into career path and thus party followers rather than true representatives.

      Organ Donor opt out would save lives and money.

      Cutting employment and H&S regulations would also save time and money and actually many lives too.

      Quack Medicine on the NHS. The list is almost endless.

      • lifelogic
        Posted April 17, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        You also ask what are the public sector’s priorities with the money it does have.

        Clearly this is just good state sector salaries, wages and pensions for doing as little as possible. They do not really care what they do so long is it is not too arduous.

        They are just as happy putting in traffic lights and islands in as taking them out so long as the wages flow! It is for politicians to tell them what they may do and what they will not pay them to do. This is the failure in the system.

        • rose
          Posted April 17, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

          Lifelogic, don’t forget the maternity leave, which is taken in generous and regular dollops by officers and managers in local government, usually beginning on appointment. And the Events Teams – officers and managers who let out the heritage to nasty noisy events which make a horrid mess and do a lot of damage which isn’t then repaired. The prime purpose of this prostitution of our historic parks and squares is to keep these bureaucrats employed, but they pretend it is to raise revenue to spend on said heritage. Funny how it all goes on back office jobs – project development officers, community development officers, equalities officers, but never on actual maintenance or gardening. That would mean someone getting their hands dirty, and no-one in local government could possibly do that.

  9. Michael Read
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Too true in your observations of work in what is termed the “public realm”. It irritates the hell out of me to see perfectly serviceable euro-stone pavements being torn up to be replaced by mock York stone slabs. We’re in Islington, by the way.

    One other thing that irritates the hell out of me is how the Labour administration is using cuts for political advantage.

    So yes there has been a cut in government grant of £30m. This cut has been used to declare cuts in old people’s homes and children’s services. Only when you look at the small print do you discover those services are being rationalised through lack of use. Most importantly, expected job cuts are just 300 – or the natural wastage rate at the authority for the last four to five years. In other words, that £30m has been achieved by making savings which have been made without any disruption to services, and that sum times four or five could have easily been saved in the preceeding years.

  10. Derek Buxton
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Welcome to the real world Sir. Local councils are spending as if money is going out of fashion, or like drunken sailors if you prefer. I look at Stockport, it wants to become a “city” but does not have the infrastructure to match. It is also driving out businesses from the town and in turn people. But each Ward has three councillors, three all on expenses and allowances, what do they do all day?

  11. Neil Craig
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    The overwhelming one in Scotland (ok outside your bailliwick) is the new Forth Bridge. This will cost variously £2.3 bn, £2.4bn or £1.6bn and the SNP government intend to sign the contracts days before the election, though actually it was voted through by all 4 parties.

    The nominal reason for this is that the current Forth Bridge’s cables are aging (though in fact they are doing 10% better than expected) and cannot be replaced without interfering with traffic (they can). The original bridge cost £19.5 million which is £320 mi8llion in today’s money. I have asked every single MSP to explain the reason for the cost differential and received a responsive answer from not one.

  12. Geoff not Hoon
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Redwood, Eric Pickles seems to be doing a good job identifying Local Authority waste already but the same is not happening on any scale with spending madness in our armed forces, BBC, foreign aid etc. etc. Were I to quote the RAF as an example of waste here I fear I would be detained at HM’s pleasure under the official secret’s act but it continues at an alarming rate. You know from your wealth of experience it is almost always pointless asking those at the top of a money burning organisation, whether it be the BBC, NHS, Forces, Police etc etc.,to ‘save’ money as they find this too difficult and something they cannot find the guts to tackle. IMHO it will only be with regime change that the necessary changes will be achieved. I wonder if the Conservative party realise how little time there is left.

  13. Nick
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    I suppose that we could vie to outdo each other in a sackcloth beauty parade, or we could go after the perpetrators of this bust, the bankers.

    =============

    Cost of bank bail out 50 bn
    Government liabilities, 6,800 bn

    No wonder politicians want to blame the banks.

  14. Conrad Jones (Cheam)
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood,

    Funny you should recognise this ehthusiasm for Councils to spend money on non- essential public works because I noticed this (and several of my work colleagues did also) , occurring near where we work.

    Park Lane, Cheam SM3 at the junction of the Main Ewell Road has a complex and – no doubt – expensive speed bumb built into the road. This is constructed of various concrete elements and extended the full width of a narrow road. It is not the usual ashalt bulge. The concrete segments were zig-zagged across the road and protruded above the road surface inorder to slow motorists down as they approached the main road at Ewell Road, near the Cheam High Street.

    After just a couple of months, I noticed that the concrete “humps” were damaged and beginning to break up. So now there are a fresh set of traffic cones and steel fences surrounding this section of Road and more Road Works being carried out.

    I don’t know the details of this work or whether the Council has ordered the previous Road Working compnay to redo the work under Guarantee – but there is fresh work being carried out. I would imagine that Sutton & Cheam Council are responsible for this work. I pay my taxes to Epsom & Ewell so don’t really have a legitimate reason for sending them a Letter to ask them specifics, although I do know people who do pay their council taxes to Sutton & Cheam and could ask them to if you are interested?

    In summary, I agree – it seems strange that with all these cuts – councils are still spending money on irrelavent public works.

    My experience of this – as I worked for Croydon Corporation some twenty five years ago; is this: That when approaching the end of the Financial Year, Council Budgets are partly determined on how much they spent the previous year. There is therefore a tendency for them to rush out and spend money on non- essential services inorder to increase their Budget for the next year.

  15. Rob
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    The River Medway fish and canoe pass is nearing completion in Tonbridge after c. 3 months construction by a major civils company. Essential work I guess during a time of austerity.

  16. Acorn
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    JR. Please can you get Tory HQ to rebut the Ashdown comment that the Tory leader was elected by AV. As far as I remember, your leader was elected by multiple eliminating ballots; not a multiple eliminating count from a single ballot, which is the AV system currently proposed for parliament. The Tory system gets much closer to the “Condorcet winner” criterion than the proposed AV.

    “Winston Churchill argued, … that AV meant ”The most worthless votes for the most candidates.” They would be the most worthless candidates because they are second choice candidates. No wonder politicians such as Nick Clegg and Sir Paddy Ashdown are so strongly in favour of AV”. (Boris)

  17. Moly
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    For weeks the good people of Monmouth have had their daily journeys disrupted while the council install “Armco” crash barriers along a couple of hundred yards of road approaching a junction. There is no obvious need for this expenditure at what is not an accident black spot. I’ve no idea of the expenditure but it will not be cheap. It smacks of spending a budget (to protect next year’s budget) and nothing else.

  18. Mike Stallard
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    1. Cambridgeshire County Council (Conservative):

    “The Council employs around 1150 staff across three departments, based at various locations across the City. These are:

    · Customer & Community is responsible for arts, recreation, city homes, community development, customer services, housing strategy and revenue and benefits.

    · Environment is responsible for urban design, planning, refuse and environment, streets and open spaces, tourism and city centre management and specialist services including car parks and bereavement services.

    · Resources is response for accountancy, human resources, ICT, internal audit, legal, property and repairs and maintenance.

    In addition, there is a small Chief Executive’s section which includes the corporate strategy team.”

    2. East Cambridgeshire Council:

    “This agenda is ambitious for any Council – for East Cambridgeshire with around 200 employees, the need to maximise and focus our resources and those of our partners is even more crucial. As potentially one of our new staff, in whatever post you are applying for, you will play an important role in this agenda.”

    There are about 3 jobs available at the moment which COULD mean that your plans for not replacing staff are in place. Meanwhile, guess what? The huge pile of bricks and other building materials on the College Campus is for the new Offices for local bureaucrats. Cost? Sort of £7,000,000. The BSF is going ahead well – cost £25,000,000, but arranged and tied up by the brilliant Mr Brown.

    Solidly Conservative area this, even so, I have not been able to find any figures for Fenland DC except that there are 41 Councillors, with, of course, Portfolios.

    All this has happened over the last twenty years or so. Before that, being a Councillor was an honorary post and the Town Clerk was a modest pen pusher.

  19. david englehart
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    i live in as remote a country lane as one could wish for but have a business in hove where i pay high rates.
    the council is an odd mix and brighton boasts the only green MP.
    i am told we will probably have a different mix after may 5.
    under the labour council much money was spent on creating a cycle line either side of one of our finest drives.
    recently the council decided they would reinstate the drive at a cost of 1 million.
    it hasnt happened yet and no doubt wont if the greens get a share of power as is likely.
    however i shudder at what will be spent by whoever gets in and tries to force their agenda on a city that could be left alone for a bit with advantage.
    dare i say it but many councillors may well be on benefit or be eligable for rate relief so if that is true what incentive is there for them to keep the rates down.
    i dont live in the district so i have no vote yet pay far more rates than any residential property does.

  20. BobE
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    John, Reading this, why do you not do somethink? Please tell

  21. Javelin
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    I think all these examples show the ratchet-ness of Government. Once spending increases it’s very difficult to stop it. What’s needed is a way of reversing the trend.

    One way is simply to reduce the budget. You could always pay the most senior people to reduce budgets every year.

  22. Kenneth
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    We have several regular trips of near-empty subsidised buses polluting our town. It would be cheaper to hire taxis.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted April 19, 2011 at 6:03 am | Permalink

      Ditto ~ utter madness.

  23. English Pensioner
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    I get angry about the jobs which are carried out by contractors but not done properly. The same pot holes are “repaired” several times by the contractor who is no doubt paid on a “per hole” basis. I rang the council about the tree outside my house (a weeping ash) which was low over the pavement, and they sent an arborologist to look at it, sent me a copy of a report recommending that his company be given a contract to prune it! What’s happened to the Council “Odd Job” team who would deal with this sort of thing?

    I compare the local “state of repair” with that when I was a teenager in the late ’40s. In spite of the war, the pavements were repaired quickly, I never noticed any pot-holes when cycling, street lights were fixed, trees and grassed areas properly maintained, broken seats repaired, etc. We are supposed to be far better off now, yet the infrastructure is falling apart. We pay proportionately far more council tax now, so what are they doing with the money?

    • alan jutson
      Posted April 18, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      English Pensioner

      Exactly as I remember it as well (same in the 5o’s and 60’s), Parks were tidy (we had park keepers and groundsmen), flower beds were full of plants cultivated by the the same people, there was no litter in parks, and they were opened and closed to make them secure at night. We could also play ball games on the grass without fear of being prosecuted.

      Roads did not have a clutter of road signs and markings and drains and ditches were regularly cleared, and trees lopped.

      I think the problem is, Councils have now become the extended arm of government, and are no more than complex benefit centres, where money is collected and reistributed under complex rules. The basic reason for a LOCAL COUNCIL has been lost.

      • rose
        Posted April 18, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        “The basic reason for a local council has been lost.” You could say the same about central government. They feed each other in creating meddling jobs rather than attending to their duties: in the case of central gov, keeping the peace and defending the realm; and in local gov: policing and basic maintenance of the public places.

        It feels as if none of these is now done – or even recognized as primary duties.

    • Bob Doney
      Posted April 18, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      As a lad I worked on such an “Odd Job” team. Complaint from resident that a tree outside his house was leaning dangerously. We drove round, backed the lorry into the tree till it was nice and straight. Job done!

  24. forthurst
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    I have no idea whether my local council is wasting a lot of money. According to the 3 A5 pages of financial reporting in the council guide, they spent £33.7m on Highways & Traffic Management and budget for £32.4m in the current year. The Statement of Account on their website which looks similar to a set of company accounts with previous and prior year figures, contains some strange items and some alarming, but does not tell me anything at all about headcounts or how they or department costs break down between administration, services, pension liabilities, other resource costs. Without having direct comparisons with norms, it is almost impossible to judge where the money is going or whether it is reasonable which would be particularly useful when judging responses to stringency and how cuts are being applied. If competitve businesses can disclose headcounts, why can’t councils?

    I note that I can request the document in Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Farsi, French, Portugese, Turkish, Other (please state).

  25. Tom
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Our local council, presumably like all others, devotes time and money to “stress management”, which is now a legal requirement-

    “The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 requires the Council to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all its employees. Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the Council is required to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of its employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work.”

    It takes 23 pages to discuss its policies…..

  26. alan jutson
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    John

    Locally here in Wokingham.

    I posted on this site last year that the Council were laying bright green tarmac and white lines along the A329 Wokingham-Reading Direction, to highlight a cycle path. Work completed just before March 2010
    Also white lines as stop lines on all junctions where minor side roads feed onto the A329, So that you did not encroach onto this cycle lane.

    I said at the time this would increase road maintainance budget.

    Many more street signs also erected locally, as if the locals do not already understand the local area.

    This year March 2011 some areas of the green cycle lane were covered in green tarmac again, as it began to break up (less than 1 year old) also we now have white lines on the pavement approaching the Holt School, also to signify a cycle lane on the path, cycle drawings in white paint every 50 yards as well just to make sure you understand (although blind people thinking they were on a safe path would be unaware of this hazard).

    Some areas of green tarmac are still lifting and so are a hazard for the very cyclists who now do not use it, but use the road instead. Hence in effect the A 329 has been narrowed !

    The 20mph speed restriction zone signs in Embrook school area have now been replaced with new ones, Same position, same message, same speed limit, but this time with new kiddies drawings (official drawings) included.

    We have now in the Wokinggham area a whole new legion of traffic light complexes, to manage us no matter what time of the day. So you can be stuck at roundabouts (traffic light controlled) at midnight when the road is completely free of traffic.

    A block of apartments in our road was constructed a few years ago, as part of the Planning deal. Our road was NARROWED, and the trees and a grass verge removed, area then covered in tarmac to form a wider path for pedestrians. Result we now have a 4 metre wide path, and a 4 metre wide road, cars park on the path because the road is now too narrow to park on the road, pedestrian traffic has not increased as all in the apartments tend to use cars, the street scene has been hardened with trees and grass removed, and now people (visitors, residents and tradesmen) risk being fined for parking safely (but on the path) which still leaves 2 metres of space.

    Think this is enough for now. but many more examples exist.

    • Big John
      Posted April 19, 2011 at 3:47 am | Permalink

      > The 20mph speed restriction zone signs in Embrook school area have now been
      > replaced with new ones, Same position, same message,
      > same speed limit, but this time with new
      > kiddies drawings (official drawings) included.

      I read this earlier, and didn’t take that much notice.

      But I went for a drink at my local, and the signs had changed.

      (You don’t want to know about the the shit they are getting from HMG).

      Obviously for some strange agenda, that I don’t understand, I still have to pay for it.

      It could be somthing to do with the “think of the children” crap.

      This means that anybody working, with out children has to pay for everybody elses kids.

      Why I am I paying for this shit ?

      If people with kids want this crap, let them pay for it.

      I can guarantee, if they had to pay for it, it woudn’t happen.

      Why haven’t we got a law that stops anybody throwing away public money like this ?

      Is their something I can do to stop this ?

  27. CHEESED OFF
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    No bloody wonder this lot rejected that slogan suggested here:

    COMMON SENSE & COMPETENCE – THE CONSERVATIVES !

    ps the ! is mine!

  28. REPay
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Shouldn’t we end the bizarre practiceof having to spend all your budget each year? I once asked my councillor why the perfetly good paving was relaid evry coupleof years. It was because they had the money and it was the only thing they could spend it on…(local government being massively controlled from Whitehall.) Similarly at the BBC a friend’s brothr would go and buy equipment not needed to comply with budget procedures – admittedly this anecdote is a decade or so back.

  29. Alte Fritz
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Some contributors have pointed to something easily forgotten. Councils used to have a clearer and more compact idea of their purpose. They were quite good at maintaining the infrastructure. Parks departments seemed an example of how well counsils could work.

    Here, the council clutters the highway with duplicated or pintless road furniture and often (it seems to me) dangerous ‘improvements’ to road and pavements. We have signs all over the town urging people not to drop litter. Do they make any difference?

    I echo comments over council newspapers which again feed a vision of councils as bodies which make intiatives rather than just do a job. Council websites are colossal and, in truth, often poorly designed.

    In terms of social policy, I have seen direct evidence of a 16 year old mother to be being provided with a house and the prospect of a lifetime’s support. Whilst anyone would applaud her not giving way to abortion, this seems potty.

    As per today’s post, their main problem seems to be in doing the job efficiently.

    On the other side of the income and expenditure account, until recently, I paid £24k a year rates for a small and modest city centre office. I paid this in return for very little and it hurt a small business fighting to survive a tough recession.

  30. Kieran Flynn
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Doncaster council has paid for a large number of its workers to have expensive smart phones provided by the state. Calls are for work but may be used for personal use. The worst thing about this is that all phones are on pay as you go and cost the tax payer a considerable sum!

    • Kenneth
      Posted April 18, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

      The BBC is doing the same

  31. Stuart Fairney
    Posted April 19, 2011 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    An example of non-essential spending?

    My local council (shamefully ~ tory) has for some reason, trashed an entirely adequate childrens playground, block-paved over it and has built a new one in about 50 yards away. My son hasn’t noticed much difference.

    I have not FOI’d the cost but I don’t think you would get much change out of £50K

  32. LANDLORDX
    Posted April 19, 2011 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Oh there are so many examples of public sector waste:

    – Brent Council treating itself to £85m new office block and printing a local newsletter boasting of the fact
    – Newham Council – one of the poorest boroughts in London – spending £110m on new offices for itself
    – Brent Council spending millions on moving all the speed bumps in NW2 – sometimes by just a few meters – and taking out mini roundabouts that they installed only a few years ago because they cause accidents
    – Brighton Council spending millions on cycle lanes in Hove which are seldom used and were not wanted by residents…then spending millions to propose taking them out again
    – Brighton Council spending thousands on pointless re-organising of perfectly good traffic lights at road intersections
    – Camden council installing traffic lights at huge expense on a side street – causing permanent traffic jams – then spending more money to take them out again

    Public sector waste is endemic…a way of life…they MUST be stopped before we end up like Greece / Portugal / Ireland…or even now apparently the USA. But we need real, deep cuts in spending now – not just increasing spending more slowly

  33. Adam Collyer
    Posted April 19, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    The iCon Centre in Daventry is a good example.

    The £8.5 million building will be a national centre of excellence for the sustainable construction and green technologies industries. The state-of-the-art scheme will provide accommodation, support and advice for up to 60 new and inventive businesses in the sector.

    Funding for the project has been obtained from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the East Midlands Development Agency (emda) and the West Northamptonshire Development Corporation (WNDC). Daventry District Council and Northamptonshire County Council have donated the land for the project.

  34. stred
    Posted April 20, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Some LAs such as Brighton and Hove have come up with ways to expand, but without using existing taxes. Owing to their own inability to control anti-social behaviour by students and other mindless tenants, the Council is proposing to create a licencing area for even small shared houses covering most wards in the inner areas.

    This will be paid for by landlords and perhaps the cost will be passed on to tenants. Houses will be inspected and demands for fire doors and management systems made, as for the larger HMOs. Costs could be in the area of many thousands initially and with ongoing expenses and the threat of criminal prosecution for landlords, many of whom are people such as lecturers or professional people who decided to invest in the last ten years, when pensions became a joke.

    My two houses are no longer rented to students, owing to bad experiences 10 years ago. Unfortunately, the neighbouring houses have become student lets and the behaviour of the students has lead to my professional tenants leaving. During their tenancies we asked the students to stop their night time drug and drink fueled disturbances. The response was “What are you going to do about it?”

    So we tried the University Community office, who tried his best. By the end of the week, they had forgotten the requests for moderation of behaviour. One tenant, an airline worker phoned the council to ask them to visit and control the noise. She was asked to wait until 5am to meet the team. This was when she was due to start work. In the end I installed speakers against the party wall and told them that I would play radio 4 at 5am, just when they were crawling into bed, after a night of shouting at each other. This worked for a while but then my decent tenants left.

    Now I have had to let to young British working tenants, who seem not to mind the noise and are not organised enough to pay the rent on time and keep violating tenancy agreements by, for example, switching of fire alarms and installing ‘chill out spaces’ in the attic.

    The idea of licensing is that irresponsible landlords, who profit from student lets, shall be responsible for controlling their tenants. If the LA and police can’t be bothered to use powers that they already have, how the hell are landlords going to control young people, many of whom are attending University when they should never be there. The universities do not care, providing they pull in tuition fees and the LAs only wish to expand their area of administration.

  35. david tamplin
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    Councils always have noney to build corners out on all pavements at what must be a huge cost and a total waste of time and money. Just as annoying is it makes life more difficult for every single motorist and usually results in a two lane part of road reduced to one lane. Well done councils!

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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