Monday, May 31, 2010

5 Years of 50 Promises - Style & Substance

The local council elections gave the ruling Conservatives the opportunity to carry out a cabinet reshuffle, giving Councillor Dale Heenan (Conservative, Covingham & Nythe) responsibility for Policy & Performance, including assessment of the 50 Promises made back in 2005.

A look back at them has been made on TalkSwindon, so I won't repeat that here. Reading of the 'official' review of them will be fascinating indeed. A look back at them from 2005 shows how the 'appearance is everything' era of the Swindon Conservatives started. Now we're use to the presidential-style rule of Councillor Rod Bluh (Dorcan) and how the appearance of doing something is more important than actually doing something, the 'all fur coat and no knickers' syndrome.

The appearance of signs on hoardings at the Central Library during construction work, or the old Railway Museum whilst refurbishment took place and no-doubt many other places, with the relevant promise emblazoned, e.g. 'Promise 26 We will have a new Central Library by 2008' was to remind us that the council were getting good work done.

Certainly PR, but patronising all the same. In the fog of this PR it is easy to lose the attributes of which promises were the council being effective and which were part of national programmes or prevously planned schemes.

This era of taking credit for national schemes (school rebuilding) or local plans set in motion before the 50 Promises was conceived (Lydiard Park restoration) continues to this day, as anyone who may have received local councillor leaflets in the last election will find if they unwind the language used.

Swindon Centric Says ; Will the wi-fi scheme sit in the new 50 promises list, and be emblazoned on leaflets at the next election?

Re-elect your local councillor, he got you a new school (out of his hands, part of a national government project), rebuilt your favourite park (instigated by the park's management and paid for by Heritage Lottery Funds) and put in place traffic calming (planned by the traffic management department, who are, you know, do it for a living), so re- elect him! For all that achievement in your ward, by others.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Is the Living Wall Dead On Arrival?

A big and flashy part of the Canal Walk redevelopment was the Living Wall on the bridge between the Brunel Centre and Brunel Arcade.

So where is it?

The Canal Walk project has been touted as finished and work has now moved on to Regent Street. So what happened to the wall?

Swindon Centric Says : Considering that root and branch reform of the New Swindon Company/Forward Swindon has been a rolling wish by many for a while, it's not surprising that a part of the 'vibrant' vision has been lost in the long grass.

A Wi-Fi Bolt-On

Digital City has agreed with local house builder Bower Mapson to bundle the Home User package for free, when you purchase one of their houses. This was reported in a 'news in brief' column from the Swindon Advertiser on Wednesday 19th of May, but isn't able to be sourced online from either Digital City, or Bower Mapson.

Maybe their wi-fi signal is patchy?

Swindon Centric Says ; If you're planning on spending £200,000 on a new pad, maybe a saving of £9.99 a month for a year will just swing the deal.

Top Ten Things Heard On Swindon's Buses Last Week ; 153

Click here for the original and still the best at this brilliant idea, here's our own version for Swindon's buses from last week.

10. He's acting like a man possessed.

9. Get out before the whole place becomes smellier than a fishmonger's armpit.

8. It was funny at the time, but it's now very serious.

7. They can make more money out of those more damaging things than the usual, above-board things.

6. He threw up everywhere, I actually saw it.

5. Come and have a look at it, it's a sight to see.

4. Flapjacks all over the floor.

3. Sandra needs to know the answer before she goes off for her fake tan.

2. I was outside and realised I was bleeding.

And the number one overheard phrase on Swindon's buses from last week is...

1. His glasses make him look like a pelican.

Overheard something we've missed? Then let us know.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Audacity of Nope

The Audit Commission has decided that nothing has been done legally wrong in Swindon Borough Council's decision to give £450,000 of your money, free office space, and incalculable council time to a business venture being executed by a firm with no previous experience and only 13 paying customers.

There are no laws against "naviety, incompetence and negligence", shame.

Swindon Centric Says ; Swindon Borough Council : your investor in paper lifeboat manufacturing, for a better Swindon.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Slice of Local Pie For All

Swindon Centric would like to welcome Bumpkinpie's Blog to the town's online presence.

Swindon Centric Says ; Dishing it out since 2010 , with a tagline like that, it should go far.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Political Fountain - Dripping in the Wrong Direction

Like Komadori, Swindon Centric is impressed by the new look of Canal Walk. The paving has mostly solved the uneven levels of the street and the feeling of a wider space has been achieved.

The fountain has become a talking point and yesterday's visit certainly showed children were drawn to it and people were stopping to look and comment. It does seem to dribble more than rush and even the dribble is creating a permanent damp patch over the new paving as the water falls outside the range of the drainage grills and flows down towards Bridge Street and the BHS site.

I was expecting the water to follow the contour of the design and neatly down into the drains, perhaps a change in flow speed and direction could be made. Or, increase the horizontal ground space of the grills, replacing some of the paving.

Swindon Centric Says ; With a report that the council leader would prefer the town centre to be about leisure rather than retail, what does he plan to turn all the empty shop units in the Brunel Centre and empty swathes of land into?

Top Ten Things Heard On Swindon's Buses Last Week ; 152

Swindon Centric would add to that, please wear appropriate clothing. The number of elderly people wearing coats since the warmer weather began on Friday is notable. Perhaps an awareness campaign of how to cope during hot weather that is as visible as that carried out during extreme cold weather is what we now need.

Click here for the original and still the best at this brilliant idea, here's our own version for Swindon's buses from last week.

10. She's left his father, taken the waffle-maker and everything.

9. We need more cheerfulness, that's what.

8. It could be a niche you could exploit until you get sore.

7. Fish finger sandwich, are you wrong in the head?

6. He cheered, kicked me in the calf and went back to sleep.

5. What brains you got?

4. A covert plan, that's just what we need, perfect, give me details.

3. Bridge Street doesn't end, it just fades away.

2. Washing-up liquid or not, it's certainly a talking point.

And the number one overheard phrase on Swindon's buses from last week is...

1. Stick a calippo down your pants, that'll cool you down.

Overheard something we've missed? Then let us know.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sign of the Times?

Swindon Centric noticed that the contractor's signs put up around the perimeter of the Mechanic's Institute have gone, with just the wooden frame that held them remaining.

Is this anything to do with the passing of the deadline the council happily made lots of noise about regarding the basic safety of the building?

Swindon Centric Says ; The 20th April deadline was a long time ago, so, Planning Director David Potter, when does SCS (Swindon Commercial Services, the limited company that the council created of it's 'works' department at the beginning of the year, for more on that, read the threads on TalkSwindon) move in?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Top Ten Things Heard On Swindon's Buses Last Week ; 151

These potholes are getting ridiculous.

Click here for the original and still the best at this brilliant idea, here's our own version for Swindon's buses from last week.

10. She's been big all over, for quite a while.

9. You're nearest, press the bell.

8. Weak as water you are.

7. I can hear your knees creaking.

6. Don't read that, it's utter rubbish, she doesn't weigh that much, you can tell by the picture.

5. Asparagus with everything, it's in season right now.

4. It took all my combined energies to not whack him on the nose.

3. You can get more information by picking up a book, remember them, we used them before we became lazy.

2. He only shaves once a week, a sure sign of an uncaring personality.

And the number one overheard phrase on Swindon's buses from last week is...

1. The cabinet challenge failed, but how long before another, better one comes along?

Overheard something we've missed? Then let us know.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Omnibus Obfuscation

"This is as much of the bus as we can afford, the form we need to apply for funding is so difficult to fill out."

The alteration of Stagecoach's 54 routing, omitting the Link Centre, West Swindon Centre and Freshbrook (except for two services to cater for school pupils), has generated a variety of reactions and explanations.

A petition isn't always the best way of making the strength of public opinion heard on an official level but it's laudable none-the-less.

The response from Stagecoach was detailed and informative as to the reasons for the route change. Unfortunately, the Advertiser haven't posted the comment from Stagecoach that was in their print edition online. I shall soon add a transcript of that comment.

Councillor Mick Bray's (Conservative, Freshbrook & Grange Park) letter to the Advertiser didn't show him being well versed in public transport policy both current and old. He talks of the route being introduced"out of the blue" in 2007, despite it being launched alongside the route 55 (which benefitted from central government investment as part of a kick-start scheme), which involved a local advertising campaign. Councillor Bray then complains about the"old story again of public transport companies applying for licenses to provide services which they terminate without any recourse or consultation with the local travelling public." , all of that is a result of the 1986 bus deregulation his own party introduced, allowing operators to withdraw routes.

Indeed, if Swindon Borough Council really believed in it's own concessionary travel scheme, it would have lobbied for greater funding as pensioners flocked onboard. The council spokesman berates Stagecoach for having had the kick-start money and then deciding to withdraw the route as a "commercial decision". I'm sure Stagecoach weren't expecting Swindon Borough Council to sit on it's hands and not try and get the money that allows the route to survive.

So don't expect Stagecoach to make anything other than "commercial decisions" when Swindon Borough Council isn't willing to do it's job in supporting socially necessary services and going after money.

Smaller points include that the reason Stagecoach have increased the 66 route to Oxford is because of local authority support from that council. Plus, Councillor Bray and Swindon Borough Council have been deafeningly quiet on the weekend cuts of the route 8 from half-hourly to hourly on a Sunday and the loss of the last Saturday evening departure (2315) from town.

Swindon Centric Says ; Have those route 8 services gone because Swindon Borough Council have withdrawn funding? I'm sure councils and councillors would rather talk loudly about cuts because of central government funding problems than those that are controllable from the town's own council budget, ultimately their responsibility.

I'm sure many councilors will make misinformed political-hay about these cuts, but will continue to use their own free pensioner's bus passes without hesitation about where the money to pay for them is (or isn't) coming from.

Top Ten Things Heard On Swindon's Buses Last Week ; 150

In a puff of smoke, the route was gone.

Click here for the original and still the best at this brilliant idea, here's our own version for Swindon's buses from last week.

Please be aware, this week's list is from the discontinued West Swindon urban part of Stagecoach's 54 number route.

10. ...

9. ...

8. ...

7. ...

6. ...

5. ...

4. ...

3. ...

2. ...

And the number one overheard phrase on Swindon's buses from last week is...

1. ...

Overheard something we've missed? Then let us know.

Top Ten Things Heard On Swindon's Buses Last (Last) Week ; 149

Click here for the original and still the best at this brilliant idea, here's our own version for Swindon's buses from last week.

10. It's a mutual agreement, that we both hate.

9. Listen up and put down that food.

8. I don't go that way, don't even know where it is.

7. He didn't like the question and I wasn't overly keen on his answer.

6. That's right, put the shopping trolley right in the way.

5. It's a bus, the public use it, what did you expect?

4. There's a controlling mind, a megalomaniac Bond baddie.

3. All in favour, raise your hands.

2. Why are we still waiting?

And the number one overheard phrase on Swindon's buses from last week is...

1. The fish are foreign and shouldn't be given refuge, passports, or benefits.

Overheard something we've missed? Then email or leave a comment and your phrase could make it onto next weeks list!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Wi-Fi Grace & Favour?

Swindon Centric heard a rumour yesterday, that Digital City's offices in the David Murray John building are provided, allegedly, free (the building of course being Swindon Borough Council owned).

Can anyone confirm or deny this?

Swindon Centric Says ; They say on a clear day you can see Highworth, and on a really clear day, a paying customer.