Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Morning After

With the Sun out this morning, I've been out walking the dog and stocking-up on a few supplies from town.

As you can see from the photo opposite, the bottle bank in the St Mildreds Bay car park is overflowing already and in Westgate's Station Road, some residents of the flats in between the shops, have once again ignored the Christmas rubbish collection schedule and simply left their food waste on the street in black bags for the Seagulls to pillage. This is an on-going problem which defies any resolution, that is unless the Council actually moves on its many letters and warnings to the absentee landlords and prosecutes. All the litter bins I saw in Station Road, are now full of domestic waste with black bags stacked to the side and it's still only Boxing Day.

Kevin, our road-sweeper, here in Westgate, stopped me on Christmas Eve and told me he is being moved to Cliftonville in the New Year. He tells me that this will leave Westgate without any regular sweeper, which given the photographs, you can see in this entry, would be a rubbish nightmare for the town. I plan to seek an urgent meeting with the Council's Director of Service and discover what this is all about, because as ward Councillor, and Shadow Cabinet Member for the Environment, I've heard nothing about any changes locally.

I was given one of those remarkble, tiny iPhone controlled helicopters for Christmas, with a small camera in the nose and I have rather unsuccesfully being trying to master it this morning, much to the amusement of the dog. I've very quickly reached the conclusion that I should stay with fixed-wing aircraft as I would very obviously be a complete failure as a helicopter pilot.

In a few years time, we can expect to see flocks of these little machines, buzzing around our world like giant dragonflies,as surveillance moves from the static CCTV cameras of today to the remote-controlled robot drones of tomorrow. The US military is already well-advanced in the development of tiny battlefield drones and its only a matter of time before the police join the queue, citing national security interests.

Earlier, I had a chap call me from Warrington and offer me the extravagent sum of £300 and a bag of crisps, to fly up there and display a personal message for him. He seemed quite hurt and surprised when I suggested that he would not even cover the petrol and hire costs of a beaten-up white van, let alone an aircraft and a pilot on Boxing Day.

Twenty-four hours into Christmas and I see I'm already 1.5 kilos heavier with a Boxing Day lunch yet to come. Time to rummage about downstairs and re-discover that pair of running shoes that rarely see the light of day from the bottom of the hall cupboard.

Dicing with death as ever, my wife has bought me a new - reconditioned classic razor; I always wanted to try the traditional type but whether I have the courage to use it is another question entirely. If you see me missing part of an ear in the New Year, you'll know why!


Anonymous said...

Remind me, which party was in control of TDC when they came up with the ridiculous policy of only cleaning selective streets?

Simon Moores said...

There's no doubt that TDC had to prioritise street cleaning, given the dramatic cut in the budget and focus was placed on specific hotspots and town centres. Why Westgate might lose out from the town centre I don't know and I need to check.

Anonymous said...

How many councillor 'wages' would it take to pay for a cleaner? If you really want to do something for your electorate, perhaps you and your fellow west gate councillors could club together.

Now that would be novel.

On a more serious note, when yo look through the council spend over £500 each month, the has to be hundreds of thousands of unnecessary spend there. Who is seriously looking at that? And this is not a labour/conservative thing. Costs were astronomical when the blue corner was in power, and nothing has changed with the reds.

Merry Christmas!

Simon Moores said...

Perhaps you could explain why Councillors should donate the modest expenses that come with the role or why, which is what I think you are proposing, Councillors should work for nothing? Very laudable I'm sure but impractical. There was a time when that was the case but the allowance was bought in to widen the opportunity for involvement in local government, as opposed to it being dominated by the retired and the wealthy.

It would be hard for the council to cut back more than it has in the past three years and that's been significant and painful. Remember that council tax represents a drop in the ocean and services are paid for in the main part from central government (formula) grants, the loss of which has hurt Thanet disproportionately as we float on a sea of dependency and benefits which has been discussed here many times before. A bit like Greece in microcosm.

Anonymous said...

You are of course correct the councillors should not be expected to work for nowt and it was only in jest.

I do think there is a huge sum still to be saved just through the amounts paid out to local building firms, recruitment firms etc.

Us mere mortals don't have access to such privileged infornation, unless I write an FOI request which in itself wastes money!

Have you ever scrutinised the costs in your area of expertise. - info tech of course, unless Clive has gone all ftse 100 CEO on us and started flying everywhere.

Simon Moores said...

When we were last in control a year ago, I had to trim £250,000 off my IT budget. The move to shared services between councils was a big step in saving many millions of IT costs over five years between them.

Anonymous said...

If the issue of a street cleaner for Westgate is one of money, TDC should just implement the £10,000 for fly tipping / littering etc on the sign in the alley behing the Station Road shops.

It would need this enforcing just once and a street cleaner would be paid for...

Simon Moores said...

Doesn't work that way I'm afraid!

Let's consider for a moment the sheer size of the reductions facing local councils. Rather like saying that your income is cut by a third but your bills remain the same.

Furthermore, the people who attract the fines are more commonly those who simply don't pay them. Recovery if I remember correctly is around 40%. If it goes to the Magistrates then it's £5.00 a week and they still don't pay.

Anonymous said...

A great result where an industry expert gets involved and makes real savings without impacting front line services. So who Is the procurement expert or services expert losing costs from the multitude of building and services payments we make each month?

Simon Moores said...

You've completely lost me! In any event and with the best will in the world, you aren't going to find dazzling efficiency in tandem with public service. This isn't Amazon or Google, it's local government and the people involved in the processes are somewhat different.

Michael Child said...

Simon I have finally got around to commenting on your blog, first let me wish you and yours a happy Christmas and prosperous new year.

Next to say there is nothing new here, at the end of the 60s beginning of the 70s I changed my job a lot, as an engineer could in those days. Working in the public sector, I won’t name and shame the universities here, I encountered the hour and a half lunch and the half hour tea break. Working on the fairs and amusements the 84 hour week but an incredibly relaxed attitude towards what one did during that time. Working in industry where clocking on 10 seconds late lost you half an hours pay and you had to fill in a worksheet saying exactly what you had been doing during every quarter of an hour of every day.

That said I don’t think anything would have been invented in the universities had they adopted say the industrial system.

Simon Moores said...

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year Michael! May I recommend banning Peter Checksfield as a positive New Year's resolution in order to re-introduce a sensible level of debate into some of the more important topics you cover.

Michael Child said...

Simon I haven’t noticed any problems with Peter’s comments, but as things are I don’t have comment moderation set, so I seldom go down the road of banning anyone as this means somewhat draconian action.

Simon Moores said...

Sometimes and reluctantly hosting sensible debate demands intervention.